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Demand for answers over Russells Hall Hospital scandal

By Richard Guttridge | Dudley | Health | Published:

Under-fire bosses at a Black Country hospital were today ordered to explain how it had descended into such a ‘mess’ as a crisis engulfing the site deepened.

An investigation has been launched into a reported 54 deaths over a six-month period at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, which emerged just 24 hours after a damning inspection revealed conditions at the hospital were so bad some staff would not even take their own families there.

A patient died in A&E after complaining of feeling ill, while another was left bleeding heavily in the waiting room, it was found.

Pressure on hospital bosses was today intensifying after the health watchdog said it had serious concerns over the A&E department and flagged up a series of failures.

Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley said he was ‘alarmed’ by the findings and demanded answers from the trust which runs Russells Hall. He also called for greater collaboration with his authority over healthcare.

He said: “This is obviously very alarming and not what we want to hear. It just goes to show the importance for councils to be doing more work alongside our partners in health because it’s clear we as a council can try to change what Russells Hall are doing for the better.

Dudley council leader Patrick Harley

“It’s concerning to hear about this report and if staff are saying they wouldn’t take their own families there than that is alarming. We need answers on how they got into this mess and more importantly how they are going to recover.”

However, amid growing pressure on beleaguered Dudley Group NHS Trust chief executive Diane Wake, the council leader said she deserved more time to turnaround the struggling hospital.

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“They have recently had a change in leadership and I think the leadership needs time to make the necessary changes and improvements,” he said. “I think they need time to implement their plan of action.”

Dudley South MP Mike Wood, who himself was treated for sepsis at the hospital last year, said the pressure was on bosses to prove they were the right people to enact changes at Russells Hall. He attended a crisis meeting with hospital chiefs as he admitted there was a ‘worrying slowness’ to bring changes in A&E, which remains ranked as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The health watchdog’s report delivered an insight into the morale of staff, some of whom said the leadership had no idea of the problems they faced on the frontline. Russells Hall’s A&E department was described as ‘chaos’ by one.

The CQC also revealed how a patient arrived in A&E showing signs of serious illness but was told to go to the waiting area where he suffered a cardiac arrest and died.

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Another patient who was ‘bleeding profusely’ in the waiting room was patched up by reception staff before, incredibly, inspectors themselves had to step in and demand action. Sepsis was also not being taken seriously enough by top doctors, according to the report. The serious condition kills more than 44,000 people every year in the UK.

Natalie Billingham died from sepsis

In July, hospital bosses were criticised over the death of mother-of-six Natalie Billingham. The 33-year-old from Tipton was suffering with sepsis but hospital doctors failed to diagnose it until her condition rapidly deteriorated hours after she was admitted to Russell’s Hall. The hospital was not, however, found to be guilty of neglect. Her family complained she didn’t receive the care she deserved. In the wake of the revelations about the hospital Natalie’s mother Marina Tranter reportedly said: “The hospital destroyed me, they’ve destroyed my family.”

In a statement after the inquest, Natalie’s brother, Trevor Rawlins, said: “It has become quite apparent, Natalie was 100 per cent denied the option of survival, regardless of faults of individuals or organisations.”

She added: “Natalie left six children and one only nine months old who’s never, ever going to know their mum.”

Bullish chief executive Ms Wake vowed to lead a turnaround in fortunes at the hospital following the revelations.

She said: “As chief executive of the trust I am determined to take the improvements forward, to work with the teams in our emergency department to make it the safest it can be - the patients deserve to feel safe and be safe.

“We took immediate action when the CQC highlighted an incident.When a patient is seen in the main department in busy periods, if we felt that they are stable they are told to wait main department. We have now put a clinical support worker in the waiting room. If a patient feels they are getting worse they can speak to the clinical support worker.

“We want the emergency department to be the safest in the country – patients in Dudley deserve that.”

Dudley Group NHS Trust chief executive Diane Wake

She added: “We routinely review all deaths across the hospital and they are subject to further internal review as part of our routine mortality review process and we have the lowest mortality rate in the Black Country. Any death we are concerned about is reported to the coroner.

“Following concerns raised by the CQC an independent review of all deaths in our emergency department over a six month period has been commissioned. We will receive the report by the end of September and we will be working with our system partners to ensure any learning is embedded.”

We are determined to get there.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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