Fine for health board over death

Bonnybridge Hospital was closed months after the patient's death
Bonnybridge Hospital was closed months after the patient's death

An NHS health board was fined £8000 today for failing to ensure the health and safety of a dementia patient who escaped from a hospital ward.

He was found dead in a canal a week later.

Alexander Gerrard absconded from the former Bonnybridge Hospital, near Falkirk, in May 2011.

Mr Gerrard (69), who was known as Sandy and originally from Aberdeenshire, was described by police as “very vulnerable”.

Police launched a major search involving specialist dogs, police search experts, fire and rescue service thermal imaging equipment and a police helicopter.

Posters featuring his photograph were also released.

His body was found by members of the public a week later, in the Forth and Clyde Canal at Auchenstarry, near Kilsyth.

Falkirk Sheriff Court heard that Mr Gerrard had made an unsuccessful attempt to abscond from the hospital six days earlier, but NHS officials had failed to carry out “a suitable and sufficient assessment” of the risk of him doing it again.

He was reported missing from the unit, on Falkirk Road, Bonnybridge, around 9pm on May 10, 2011, having been last seen on Ward 2 of the hospital sometime between 3pm and 5pm that day.

NHS Forth Valley pleaded guilty to failing to assess the risks to Mr Gerrard’s health and safety, contrary to 1999 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

Sheriff Derek Livingston imposed the £8000 fine.

The health board closed Bonnybridge Hospital just seven month later, with its staff and patients transferred to the Falkirk Community Hospital.

A spokeswoman for NHS Forth Valley said tonight: “We are very sorry for the circumstances surrounding this patient’s death in May 2011 and would like to again apologise to the family for the distress this has caused.

“A number of actions have been carried out to address the shortcomings identified as a result of both our own internal investigation and the subsequent investigation carried out by the HSE.”