Death of a patient at Mid Ulster Hospital leads to prosecution of Health Trust

Date published: 27 April 2023

Following a joint investigation by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) and Police Service for Northern Ireland into the death of a patient at Mid Ulster Hospital in 2014, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust has been fined £10,000 at Coleraine Crown Court after pleading guilty to a single health and safety offence.

Mr Gerard McElhone, aged 50 years, was a patient at Mid Ulster Hospital, Magherafelt in County Londonderry. On 25 December 2014, Mr McElhone, who was on a restricted diet requiring food to be pre-mashed, choked on a Brussels sprout and died later that evening.

Speaking after the hearing, HSENI Inspector Linda Murphy said: “Choking can have serious consequences but is avoidable in cases where there is a known risk.

“In this tragic case there was a failure to effectively communicate and implement dietary restrictions for Mr McElhone.

“Effective communication of a patient’s dietary requirements is vital in all health care settings.”

The investigation found that Mr McElhone was given the Brussels sprout in error by a member of staff, at his request on Christmas Day. Although Mr McElhone’s dietary restrictions had been identified by way of an earlier assessment, they were not effectively communicated.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust, as an employer, failed to ensure that reasonably practicable steps were taken to ensure the safety of Mr McElhone.

Notes to editors: 

1.Breaches and fines for Northern Health and Social Care Trust are as follows:

a) Article 5 of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978: fine £10,000.

2. For media enquiries please contact: HSENI Press Office on 028 9024 3249 or email For out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

Share this page