Lincolnshire hospital trust fined £100,000 after elderly patient burned on pipes

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has been fined £100,000 after an elderly patient suffered severe burns when staff inadvertently rolled her up against very hot radiator pipes.

Lincoln County Hospital. EMN-200917-170611001
Lincoln County Hospital. EMN-200917-170611001

Boston Magistrates’ Court was told on Friday (March 25) that Iris Longmate, of Dunston – who was close to her 100th birthday – died 11 days after the incident at Lincoln County Hospital, although not as a result of the burns.

The trust has been fined the six-figure sum after admitting a breach of Health and Social Care Act Regulations.

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The injuries were sustained during a resuscitation process on Greetwell Ward on March 3, 2019, the court heard.

In light of the trust’s guilty plea, the Care Quality Commission, which brought the prosecution, withdrew a second broader charge involving the risk provided to other service users.

The court was told that Mrs Longmate had been admitted to the hospital on February 19 and her condition worsened, including some confusion.

At around 12.30pm on the day of the incident she had been left for five to ten minutes while she used a commode.

Staff then found her face down on the floor, breathing but not alert.

Jemina Stephenson, prosecuting, said: “Mrs Longmate was then turned on to her side and back in order to assess her.

“As a result of being turned, Mrs Longmate was pressed up against the exposed radiator pipework.”

The court was told that the temperature of the pipework was about 60 degrees Celsius. Health and safety guidance says contact with anything above 43 degrees can lead to serious injury.

Mrs Longmate suffered a burn to her left thigh measuring 30cm by five centimetres and a superficial burn to her arm.

She had suffered a fractured spine and cut to her head in the fall, which she believed happened after she had fainted.

Mrs Longmate was transferred to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham two days later and died on March 14.

Subsequent checks on Greetwell Ward showed that there were four radiators and 12m of exposed pipework which were considered a high risk and 19 radiators and 34m of pipework which were of medium risk.

The court heard moving extracts of written victim personal statements from family members, who were present in court, along with the trust’s chief executive Andrew Morgan.

Mrs Longmate’s daughter, Jeanette Hickman, said she had to leave the hospital room to gasp when she first saw the burn wounds and suffers nightmares reliving the sight of them.

David Longmate said he had found it difficult to come to terms with his mother suffering such injuries in a “perceived place of safety”.

Eleanor Sanderson, representing the trust, said she wanted to start her mitigation by expressing to the court the “deep regret” of the trust for the circumstances that led to the offence.

“And in particular the pain and suffering that was caused to Mrs Longmate and to her family,” she added. “[The trust] extends its unreserved apology to her family.”

She said a number of actions and a “wholesale review” had taken place since the incident to ensure it could never happen again.

District Judge Peter Veits said: “This prosecution is for the failure of the hospital in not recognising and dealing with the danger caused by the hot pipes. Clearly, at that time adequate procedures were not routinely followed.”

He acknowledged that the trust had done a lot of work to improve the situation.

“But it is troubling in 2019, a hospital – which should’ve been a safe haven for those needing treatment – was not a safe place.”

The trust was also ordered to pay £11,205 in costs and surcharge.