Communication breakdown sees health board fined £200,000 over woman’s suicide in hospital
A Scottish health board has been fined £200,000 after a patient with a history of self-harm took her own life in hospital.
Anne Clelland, 49, was found unconscious in an en suite bathroom at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (pictured) in May 2015. She was transferred into an intensive care unit, but she later died.
Just days before she died she had been taken to accident and emergency department after she admitted taking an overdose, Glasgow Sheriff Court heard on Friday, but because of a “breakdown in communications” was not transferred to a specialist psychiatric unit.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board admitted breaching health and safety laws, and was fined £200,000.
Passing sentence, Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull told the court: “In this particular case, the harm caused could not have been greater. As a consequence of the board’s admitted failure, Ms Clelland lost her life.”
Sheriff Principal Turnbull added: “Ms Clelland had an extensive history of deliberate self-harm. She had been admitted following an attempted suicide and had been clinically assessed as being at significant and ongoing risk of self-harm including suicide.”
She had a number of disorders which affected her moods and emotions, the court was told, and had an extensive history of deliberate self-harm.
On May 8 2015, she was taken to accident and emergency after the attempt on her own life, and doctors gave her medication to counteract the physical effects, the court was told.
Two days later, her condition had stabilised and she was transferred to Ward 5A, a general medical ward, and by May 15 she was judged to be medically fit to leave.
A trainee psychiatrist said that there was an “significant and ongoing risk” of Ms Clelland harming herself, and made a number of arrangements for her to be transferred to Leverndale Hospital.
But, the court was told, “due to an admitted breakdown in communication”, it was not clear to staff on the ward the intention that she “would be transferred that evening because of that assessed risk of self-harm”, and she remained there over the weekend.
In the early hours of May 18, a nurse noticed Ms Clelland was not in her bed, Sheriff Principal Turnbull said, and the nurse called to her through the locked bathroom door.
She then over-rode the lock, he said, and found her unconscious on the floor. She died on May 19.
The hospital has previous convictions regarding the death of three other patients in the years leading up to Ms Clelland’s death, the court was told.
The hospital board was fined £300,000, reduced to £200,000 because of an early guilty plea.
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