Scottish Ambulance Service fined £55,000 for health and safety failures with fatal consequences

Police Car with lights on

The Scottish Ambulance Service Board (SASB) has been fined £55,000 after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety regulations, which tragically led to the death of Mrs May Jean Morris, 78.

Digby Brown represented Mrs Morris’ family, successfully raising and settling a civil case against the SASB between 2009 and 2010. 

Mrs May died in December 2008 as a result of injuries she sustained after being thrown from her wheelchair when the ambulance she was travelling in was involved in a road traffic accident in Paisley.

An investigation into the incident found that Mrs May was not adequately secured in the vehicle.

The investigation also found that Scottish Ambulance Service Managers knew that its vehicles were failing to provide and deploy necessary wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint systems, which are designed to allow patients to be transported safely and securely while in their wheelchairs.

The Scottish Ambulance Service was fined at Paisley Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to breaches of sections 3 (1) and 33 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the fine was administered, Health and Safety Executive Inspector Graeme Waller said:

"Mrs May Jean Morris died unnecessarily as a result of the Scottish Ambulance Service failing to assess the risks associated with the transport of patients in wheelchairs.

"This prosecution will draw attention to the importance of assessing and ensuring the health and safety of vulnerable people during transit as well as ensuring that vehicles used for patient transport are properly equipped and staff trained in the use of this equipment."

Brian Castle, Digby Brown Partner, said;

“You would think that patient safety would be a given when in the care of the ambulance service.  Sadly, for Mrs Morris and her family that was not the case and the consequences of the failings of the ambulance service in this instance have been both tragic and devastating for a family. It is regrettable too that this appears not to be an isolated incident  - Digby Brown are currently representing patients and families in a number of similar cases, including another case involving a fatality.  It is hoped that following this conviction and fine, lessons are learned by the ambulance service and we see no more of these preventable incidents.”