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Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust to appear at crown court after failing to ensure the safety of patient Michael Wilcock

An NHS Trust has admitted a string of failures that left a patient needing plastic surgery after he was badly burnt during an operation.

Representatives from Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust will appear at Maidstone Crown Court after pleading guilty to failings that resulted in a man suffering serious burns in 2012.

Maidstone Magistrates' Court heard how 58-year-old Michael Wilcock, from Tunbridge Wells, was severely burnt on his right buttock and hip by a warming blanket during a surgical procedure at Maidstone Hospital in September 2012.

Michael Wilcock was had to endure two operations following the severe burns suffered in September 2012
Michael Wilcock was had to endure two operations following the severe burns suffered in September 2012

Investigations found that the trust had failed to train staff in how to properly use the device, known as a 'hot dog', or adequately test it.

The court heard that two earlier incidents of minor burns caused by the machine were not fully investigated.

Mr Wilcock, who works for the Health and Safety Executive and is pursuing a civil claim, was sent to the burns unit at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead following the routine 55 minute operation.

He underwent plastic surgery there, enduring two further operations, one of which led to a temporary heart problem.

Miss Tiger, representing the HSE, said the trust had failed in its duty under the Health and Safety Act 1974 to ensure the safety of a patient.

Maidstone Hospital
Maidstone Hospital

The court heard how staff had failed to read the manual that came with the 'hot dog', which was introduced in April 2011 and was immediately withdrawn after the incident.

The blanket's sensor, used to control the temperature, was placed on a cold saline drip rather than the patient's body.

Registering a low temperature this caused more heat to be emitted than needed resulting in Mr Wilcock's injuries.

“Had a similar incident occurred when someone more frail, unwell or a small child had been on the operating table the consequences might have been far worse.” - Iona Meeres-Young, solicitor for Mr Wilcock's

Mr Wilcock’s solicitor, Iona Meeres-Young, a clinical negligence specialist, said: “This is an extremely worrying case.

"There seems to have been a serious failure of key safeguards which should protect a patient being placed on this heated mattress.

“The hospital owes a duty of care to Mr Wilcock – especially when he was at his most vulnerable, under general anaesthetic and unable to alert the staff to his discomfort. 

“It is of utmost importance that lessons are learned from this incident to prevent anything similar happening again.

“Had a similar incident occurred when someone more frail, unwell or a small child had been on the operating table the consequences might have been far worse.”

Solicitor Malcolm Fortune, on behalf of the trust, entered the guilty plea.

Magistrates' referred the case to crown court for sentencing.

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