The Health & Safety Executive (“HSE”) have successfully prosecuted University Hospital of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (the “Trust”) for misuse of bedrails in hospitals. Carlisle Crown Court issued the Trust with a fine of £100,000 and ordered costs of £18,465 after it plead guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. 

On visits to the Trust in February 2012 and May 2012, the HSE identified inappropriate bedrails being used. An Improvement Notice was served in May 2012, along with recommendations to improve bedrail management. On a further inspection in July 2013, improvements were not found to have been made and the risks involved with bedrail management had not been managed effectively. A second Improvement Notice was served. 

Although the Trust had a bedrail management policy, there were no systems or procedures to put the policy into action. Elements of the failure were the lack of a system to identify and inspect third-party bedrails, as well as the lack of planned preventative maintenance on manual beds and bedrails. The risks from inappropriate use of bedrails include the risk of entrapment by the head or neck, potentially leading to injury or asphyxiation. As the HSE Inspector, Carol Forster, said after the hearing, “The need for adequate risk assessment and management of third party bedrails has been recognised in the healthcare sector for a number of years and guidance and advice has been published by the relevant bodies to this effect.” 

This case demonstrates the increasing focus of the regulator on healthcare providers, and the importance of following sector-specific, areas of risk management is reinforced, which should act as a reminder for companies to be acutely aware of current matters and developments within their sector.