Hospital errors in boy's fatal operation

A HOSPITAL trust has admitted health and safety failures during a routine operation in which a nine-year-old boy died. Tony Clowes died while under general anaesthetic after his oxygen tube became blocked when he was taken to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford for treatment to sew the top of his finger back on after a bike accident.

A HOSPITAL trust has admitted health and safety failures during a routine operation in which a

nine-year-old boy died.

Tony Clowes died while under general anaesthetic after his oxygen tube became blocked when he was taken to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford for treatment to sew the top of his finger back on after a bike accident.

Mid Essex Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, pleaded guilty yesterday to charges under health and safety law.


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The trust was accused of failing to pass on safety information provided by medical equipment agencies

about their products to staff in the anaesthetic department of the hospital.

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Richard Matthews, prosecuting, said: “The Crown's case is that this breach contributed to the death of Tony Clowes.”

But he revealed evidence would have to be heard in open court to determine whether the hospital's

failings were responsible for the Dagenham schoolboy's death.

A tube was blocked by an object in the pre-op room on July 18, 2001, starving Tony's brain of oxygen and he died despite the desperate attempts of the theatre doctors to revive him.

Police investigations after the incident revealed the tube, which was supposed to be used just once, had been re-used when it was blocked.

His grieving parents Carol and George wiped away tears as they sat through the 10-minute hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.

A jury at Tony's inquest in 2003 found “system neglect” had contributed to the schoolboy's death.

After his death police launched Operation Orcadianwhich involved 30 police forces looking into whether 13 incidents involving blocked anaesthetic tubes were linked.

Officers re-examined the cases dating back over a 14-year period which pointed to an incident rate of one in five million.

Essex Police, which led the operation, concluded, after the lengthy and detailed investigation, there was no evidence to show the series of blockages was as the result of criminal conduct.

A date for sentencing is yet to be set but the Health and Safety Executive revealed there is no maximum fine for such a case.

A spokesman for the HSE said such prosecutions were quite rare but in recent years penalties had ranged from £20,000 to £10million.

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