• Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust pleads guilty to care failings
  • Fine relates to five patients who died while under its care in 2011 and 2012

A Midlands trust has pleaded guilty to failings in the care of five patients who died after falling in its hospitals.

The Health and Safety Executive fined Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust £333,000 on Tuesday after patients were “exposed to the risk of falling”. It has also been asked to pay £130,000 of costs.

The fine was imposed after HSE investigated the deaths of five elderly patients between June 2011 and November 2012. All five died after falls that occurred at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

Vince Joyce, the principal inspector for HSE in Shropshire, said: “It was the duty Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust to take reasonable precautions to prevent vulnerable patients from falling. Although policies and procedures were in place for this to happen, they were not consistently applied at the point of care.

“In different ways, these patients were left exposed to the risk of falling, which resulted in their deaths. It is right for the trust to have been held to account for those failings in the court today.”

A trust statement said last year it admitted to a breach of section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It added: “Expert evidence suggests that, even had all preventative measures been in place, the falls may still not have been avoidable.”

Four of the five patients, aged between 72 and 92, died while inpatients at the trust. The fifth patient died at home after being discharged from hospital but a post mortem said the injury sustained from her fall contributed to her death.

Lucy Anderson Edwards, great-niece of Edna Evans, one of the patients who died, said: “Nothing will ever justify the tragic events that led to auntie Edna’s death, but today I am grateful for the Shrewsbury and Telford Trust’s open admittance to fault and I can only hope that bringing my aunt’s case to light will go a long way in preventing such catastrophic future errors”.

Trust chief executive Simon Wright said: “I’d like to offer my sincerest condolences to the families of these patients. We have fully cooperated at all stages with the HSE.”

The HSE is the national regulator for workplace health and safety. Before April 2015, when the Care Quality Commission assumed responsibilities, it was charged with deciding whether to investigate patient safety concerns.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 includes the need to protect the public from risks to their health and safety arising out of the activities of workplace employees. Section 3 places general duties on employers towards people other than their employees.

The case was heard at Stafford Crown Court on Tuesday.