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West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust fined £2,500 over failures to notify family about circumstances of patient's death

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A Suffolk hospital trust has been fined £2,500 after it failed to properly notify a family over the circumstances surrounding a patient's death.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been rapped by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for breaching duty of candour regulations when a patient died in October 2018 following complications during childbirth.

The CQC issued two fixed penalty notices of £1,250 after the trust, which runs West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, failed to notify the family as soon reasonably possible about the incident and did not provide them with an account of the incident or offer an appropriate apology in a timely manner.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Phil Fuller
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Phil Fuller

The trust said it accepted its communications with the patient's family 'were not good enough', it had apologised and has taken steps to improve the way it corresponds with relatives after a patient's death.

The watchdog said it checked what actions the trust had taken and if any were still required.

The trust was also required to provide evidence on the steps it took to strengthen processes to ensure compliance with duty of candour in future.

Fiona Allinson, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said: "Under the duty of candour, all providers are required to be open with patients or their families when something goes wrong or that appears to have caused significant harm.

"Where CQC find evidence that this has not happened, we will take action, as we have done against West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

"We issued two fixed penalty notices following the death of a patient at the trust and their handling of notifying the family in 2018.

"There was a significant delay in following the duty of candour.

"The amount of this fine is in no way reflective of the value of the life that was lost but is the maximum amount we can fine an organisation for breaching the duty of candour regulation.

"We will always take action where organisations have failed people and their families, and we will continue to monitor the trust to ensure they have learnt from this and these mistakes aren’t repeated.”

Sue Wilkinson, chief nurse at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The trust has accepted two fixed penalty notices from the CQC.

"In this case our communications with a patient's family were not good enough, and we have apologised to them for the way this was handled and the unnecessary distress this must have caused them at a very difficult time.

"We take the CQC's findings very seriously, and have already taken steps to improve the way we correspond with relatives following a patient's death."

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