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Retired Major died after hospital fall.

A retired Army Major died after falling from a hospital trolley as NHS staff wheeled him for a routine hip X-Ray.

Major James Fyfe, a Dunkirk veteran who was 90 and had survived Second World War atrocities, fell from the hospital trolley, broke his neck and cut his head.

Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, led by chairman Graham Sims, was fined £200,000 by the judge who gave four years to pay after hearing that the trust was £29m in the red.  

Major Fyfe had been attending the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for a routine examination after it was thought he had suffered a fractured hip.

The war veteran, who had been attached to the Royal Signals, was lying on a hospital trolley that had not had the sides properly secured and fell, breaking his neck and cutting his head. He died of pneumonia on April 21, 2011 having never recovered from the broken neck.

The hospital trust, which has a £29.6m deficit, admitted a charge relating to the failure to properly secure the hospital bed.

Former Little Chef chief, Graham Sims and Jean O'Callaghan, the Trust's CEO, heard Judge Angela Morris rule that £200,000 had to be paid by the Trust following the death. Costs of £76,305 were awarded on top of the fine, making a total of £276,305.

Prosecuting, Gordon Menzies, said: "On March 27 2011 Major James Fyfe was lying on one of the 138 trolleys used by the trust. He had been in hospital with a suspected fractured hip and he was on the trolley for an X-Ray."

The court heard that the trolley used was a version with moveable sides, which needed to click into place in order to prevent a patient from falling out. However, the trolley that Major Fyfe had been placed on was partly corroded and key mechanisms - including a spring inside the sidebars - were missing.

The prosecutor revealed that staff training provision for operating clinical equipment had been "poor", with just one man responsible for training 3,500 people.

Mr Menzies: "The trolley sides were insecure and any pressure would retract it to a down position which is exactly what happened on that day.

"The injuries Major Fyfe sustained had a causal connection with his death. The risk of a fall is well known in the care industry. Although the Trust had a policy, it didn't consider falls from trolleys. The manufacturer's guidelines stated that these trolleys should be maintained twice a year. However this device was looked at only three times in four years."

Defending the Trust, James Ageros QC, aid: "In an audit after the incident the clinical engineering department took the trolley and examined it. There were problems with the trolley which was given a C rating."

Passing sentence, Judge Morris said: "The offence to which the defendant has pleaded guilty exposed a large number of patients at risk of harm, although the Health and Safety Executive do not contend that in this particular case the defendant’s failings actually caused the injuries and subsequent death of Major Fyfe.”

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