QC to oversee independent review into Shropshire hospital trust asbestos concerns

An independent review surrounding allegations over whether a hospital trust failed to properly investigate concerns around asbestos exposure will be overseen by a QC, it has emerged.

Les Small
Les Small

Ben Reid, chairman of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), commissioned the review, following a whistleblower writing to the Care Quality Commission.

Les Small was sacked by SaTH after raising concerns, and later won a tribunal ruling that he had been unfairly dismissed in 2012.

He was a project manager in the trust’s estates department and had reported suspected asbestos in nursing accommodation at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, fearing workmen could be exposed.

The trust was prosecuted and told to pay £34,000 earlier this year, after admitting two breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Mr Small wrote to the CQC calling for an independent investigation into how the trust had handled the asbestos concerns, and what he described as the 'bullying culture' which led to him being sacked for raising the issues.

Review

Speaking to members of the SaTH board at a meeting on Thursday, Mr Reid said it would be a comprehensive review.

He said: "It's a full review by a QC.

"I want to put these things behind us.

"I'm using a QC so no one can suggest I'm trying to brush this under the carpet."

In May, Telford Magistrates Court heard workers at SaTH were removing fixtures and fittings from an empty flat at the RSH when they disturbed asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

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It happened in June 2012 but the trust, which runs RSH and Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, then failed to take adequate measures to deal with the initial release of asbestos, exposing other contractors who later worked in the flat.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the trust did not properly record ACM on its estate.

SaTH had arrangements in place to manage asbestos but the overall management plan for dealing with it was not recorded in a clear and concise manner or effectively communicated to workers, the HSE said.

The trust had insufficient auditing procedures to ensure that the arrangements contained in the policy and management plan were fully implemented, working properly and effective.

The procedures in place upon the discovery of asbestos were inadequate and SaTH failed to prevent re-entry into the contaminated area by other workers.

The trust was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay costs of £18,385.80.

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