Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust has been ordered to pay £19,228 in fines and costs after damaging a radioactive implant used during hospital operations at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.
This case was brought by the Environment Agency following damage to the implant, called a ‘seed’ in an operating theatre in October 2008.
The damaged ‘seed,’ which is used in the treatment of prostate cancer, should have been spotted straight away.
Unfortunately, even though the Trust was told nine days later when a container, they thought was empty, was sent back to the manufacturers in Germany, the Trust did not do anything until December when contamination of a laboratory where radioactive material is stored, was picked up during a routine annual inspection.
The contamination was identified some 43 days after the damage to the ‘seed’ had occurred.
Magistrates ruled that the Trust had been ‘careless’ in not identifying the damaged ‘seed’, in not minimising the spread of contamination and not disposing of the ‘seed’ in a proper manner. The Magistrates also found the Trust ‘extremely careless’ in failing to tell authorities for more than two months.
The Environment Agency, which should have been told immediately, was not informed about the damage until 69 days after the incident.
“This case was about a failure to carry out a risk assessment on the use of new equipment, failures in the Trust’s management arrangements and the consequences that resulted from those failures. We do not believe that there was any risk to the environment or to human health. However, if the Trust had carried out a risk assessment the incident could have been avoided,” said Gary McMeekan for the Environment Agency.
Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust admitted to failing to prevent damage to a sealed radioactive source containing iodine 125 on October 28, 2008. It also admitted to failing to minimise the spread of contamination, failing to dispose of a damaged radioactive source to its incinerator and failing to tell the Environment Agency as required by its permits.
The Trust was fined £10,000 and ordered that it pay £9,228 costs.
(from a press release)