The parents of a 10-year-old girl suffocated by a plastic blanket after falling out of a faulty hospital bed have moved a step closer to getting justice.
Ten-year-old Jade Norton, who was severely disabled, tumbled from her bed in June 2011 when a side rail gave way.
In the case of the NHS Trusts this was systematic failure. They put Jade at risk and she lost her life
Her devastated parents, Lee and Amanda, had asked five times for a fault in the £2,600 bed to be fixed or for it to be replaced but nothing was done.
Her father said:”She died because no one listened to us.”
It was only three years after the tragedy that health bosses apologised to Jade’s parents and paid undisclosed compensation as part of a civil case.
And, at Blackpool magistrates court on Friday, the NHS Litigation Authority and the company hired to give care to Jade admitted two charges each bought by the Health and Safety Executive.
District Judge Jeff Brailsford heard how Jade suffered medical problems including Rhetts Syndrome, which could cause fits.
She was provided with a specialist NHS bed at her parents home on Eaton Road, South Shore, and the NHS used a company – Advantage Care, since bought out by Interserve – to provide carers for four hours a day, six days a week.
However, in June 2011, days before her 11th birthday, Jade suffered a seizure and fell out of bed. Jade’s father found his daughter dead.
Her trapped head meant her face was against plastic side panels and her breathing had stopped in the night.
Prosecutor Simon Belfield told the court: “This bed had a defective side rail, therefore what happened was foreseeable. The NHS fell very far short of safe and reasonable standards of care.
“Key personnel had been made aware of the risk by Jade’s parents but missed the opportunity to rectify the problem.
“There was a failure in the duties of those Jade relied upon to care for her and tragically she died.
“In the case of the NHS Trusts this was systematic failure. They put Jade at risk and she lost her life.”
The prosecutor asked for the charges to be sentenced at Crown Court where unlimited fines can be imposed. He said that would probably go into hundreds of thousands of pounds and that would send out the correct message that this should not happen again.
Jade’s father Lee – a graphic designer - gave a statement, which said: “To this day it does not feel real. I was robbed of my daughter by a careless minor failure which could have been put right by a simple and proper maintenanceprogramme.”
Richard Seabrook, defending Interserve – which has a £46m annual turnover – said they had put many improvements in place since acquiring Advantage, and that Advantage had only been involved with Jade for five months before she died.
“But the company knows this is a serious offence with tragic circumstances,” he said.
“But the way the firm is now run has been transformed.”
David Lewis, for NHS Litigation, said the Trusts publicly apologised for what had happened.
He said that any fine the NHS had to pay would have to come from the public purse and “that is currently not bulging”.
“NHS Litigation has taken over responsibility for this matter as the Trusts do not exist any more,” he said.
“As such we accept criminal liability. Not all the complaints went to the NHS. Some went to other authorities such as social workers and the council but all became lost in the system.”
Judge Brailsford sent the cases to be sentenced at Crown Court saying his powers to impose fines were not adequate.
He said: “The word tragedy is used many times in our world, not always correctly and when it does not always apply. But it does here.”