Family ‘could sue’ over learning disabilities hospital death

The family of a 20 year-old man with severe learning disabilities who died when his head became trapped in the bars of his hospital bed may sue the primary care trust concerned, Community Care has learned.

An inquest at Chelmsford County Hall last week into the death of Kyle Flack, who died from asphyxiation at Basildon Hospital in October 2006, ruled that neglect was a contributing factor.

Frances Swaine, partner in the Flack’s law firm Leigh Day and Co, said Flack had been involved “in the same sort of incident” at the hospital in 2005. She said staff had at the time introduced additional padding to his cot, as a result of his family’s concerns, but information on Flack’s needs was not passed on to staff looking after him the following year.

Legal advice

Swaine confirmed that Flack’s family were taking legal advice on whether to bring a clinical negligence case against NHS South West Essex, the primary care trust responsible for Basildon Hospital.

Separately, the Health and Safety Executive, which was automatically informed because Flack did not die from a clinical condition, is now considering whether there is a case for prosecution.

Concerns have also emerged over other deaths involving people with learning disabilities at the same hospital. Swaine confirmed that she was consulting families over  issues of  “communication and clinical care”.

Lessons learned

David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at learning disability charity Mencap, said he was aware of three other deaths at Basildon Hospital, as well as Flack’s, between 2003 and this year.

“We don’t yet know if this year’s death was unavoidable, but it raises concerns as to whether the hospital has made the changes to procedures that it should have since the previous deaths,” he said.

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Trust said lessons had been learned from Flack’s case.

Maggie Rogers, director of nursing, said:“On behalf of the board and the staff who were involved in Kyle’s care and treatment, I extend sincere condolences to his family and friends.The verdict touches on a number of issues we have identified and which we have been working very hard to improve.”

Mencap’s 2007 report, Death by Indifference, highlighted the cases of six people with learning disabilities who died because NHS care was inadequate.

Related articles

London project improving awareness of learning disabilities among NHS staff

Mencap may take legal action against NHS trusts and doctors

Learning disabilities: Six deaths ‘expose massive care failings’


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