Healthcare provider fined over internal occupational health service failures

Out-Law News | 02 Nov 2017 | 3:06 pm | 1 min. read

A Bedford-based private healthcare provider has been fined after it failed to act on concerns raised about the running of its internal occupational health service.

Ramsay Health Care (UK) Operations Ltd (Ramsey), based in Bedford, was fined £550,000 at Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty to breaches of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA). The company was also ordered to pay legal costs of over £36,000.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) began investigating the business after being contacted by one of Ramsey's nurses, Lynne Betts. It found that the company had not appointed enough occupational health professionals to run the service, putting its employees, patients and general members of the public at risk of suffering ill health or acquiring an infection.

The company also failed to carry out adequate health surveillance of its employees, as required by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. As a result of this, one of its nurses working at Boston West Hospital in Lincolnshire contracted occupational dermatitis which later spread from her hands to her arms and legs.

Health and safety law expert Sean Elson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said that the "unusual" case "emphasises how failures to manage occupational health issues can result in serious enforcement action, even where there has been no injury of any kind".

"It is unusual to see a case prosecuted, at least in part, based on allegations of under-resourcing," he said. "What it does emphasise is the HSE's current agenda around health issues".

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Emma Page said that healthcare providers "should be aware of their legal duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, as well as their patients and service users".

"HSE will not hesitate to hold those accountable who do not fulfil their legal obligations," she said.