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Friday, 21 December 2018

Health Trust fined £300,000 after violent knife attack on two nurses at secure unit

Written by Emily Pennink

A health trust has been fined £300,000 after two nurses were stabbed by a patient at a medium secure psychiatric unit.

The staff suffered life-threatening injuries when patient Myha Grant ran amok at the Bracton Centre near Dartford in Kent on July 17 2016.

Mr Grant forced his way into a kitchen on a ward while healthcare assistant Francis Barrett was making toasted sandwiches.

He grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Mr Barrett repeatedly in the chest and stomach as if he was "a piece of meat being prepared for cooking".

Nurse Julius Falomo raised the alarm after hearing screams and was stabbed 17 times by Grant before he managed to stagger away.

Another terrified staff member found herself trapped while patients locked themselves in their bedrooms and bathroom as Grant set light to newspapers, clothes and bedding.

Armed police were eventually able to apprehend Grant while the fire brigade put out the blaze, the court heard.

Grant, who has schizoaffective disorder and antisocial personality disorder, had a history of violence and had attacked a nurse before, the Old Bailey was told.

He had been in and out of hospitals since 2009 and was admitted to the Bracton centre two days before the attacks.

He had been arrested on June 2 2016 for hitting a member of the public over the head with a champagne bottle.

Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, which serves three south London boroughs and Kent and employs 3,500 people, was said to be well aware that mentally unwell patients held in medium secure conditions could be violent.

In June the trust pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to ensure the health and safety of its own employees and others, including its patients.

In mitigation, Dominic Kay QC said: "This case and the incident that occurred is a matter of complete and utter regret for those concerned with the management of Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust."

He said the aim was to "help and protect people" and the failing did not arise from a desire to "cut corners or put savings before safety".

He highlighted the latest Care Quality Commission report from 2017 which rated it "good".

Sentencing, Mr Justice Edis QC said it was "astonishing" the nurses were not killed, adding: "The injuries each sustained were of the utmost severity and physical and psychological effects of what happened will be with them for life."

He said procedures meant to ensure all knives were locked up and out of reach of patients were "ad hoc and inadequate".

He reduced the fine from a starting point of £1.5 million, in part because of the effect it would have on public services, after hearing the trust already had a funding shortfall.

He also acknowledged that Mr Barrett had said the care and support to him and his family was "wonderful throughout this ordeal".

He said: "I am satisfied that the effect of this fine will be to penalise those who depend on the services provided by the trust.

"I do nevertheless consider it is my duty to impose a substantial fine which marks the serious view I take of this case."

He ordered the trust to pay a fine of £300,000 plus £28,000 costs to the Health and Safety Executive.

HSE inspector Joanne Williams said: "This incident has had a profound impact not only on the two nurses who nearly died because of their injuries, but also their colleagues who witnessed the attacks.

"These NHS workers dedicated themselves to a public duty that came with daily challenges and the trust had a responsibility to keep them safe."

Straightforward steps that could have prevented the attack, including a patient specific risk assessment and the removal of knives from acute admission wards, she said.

"The risk of violence posed by patients was entirely foreseeable. Had these steps been taken Francis Barrett and Julius Falomo would not have suffered the serious injuries that they did."

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