Inquiry after 54 deaths at Russells Hall Hospital’s A&E

A West Midlands hospital A&E is being investigated after concerns were raised over the deaths of 54 patients in a six-month period.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) examined Russells Hall Hospital’s death records from the first six months of 2018 as part of an inspection in June. Dudley Group NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said it had the region’s lowest mortality rate.

The A&E department has been issued with four enforcement notices since January, meaning the trust has to report regularly to the CQC.

Inspectors visited the hospital in June and gave it an overall rating of “requires improvement”. In its latest inspection report, published on 6 September 2017, the health watchdog rated urgent and emergency care “inadequate”.

Dudley’s four MPs have since called for the chairman of the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust to resign.

Responding to the report, the trust said that it had recently appointed a new clinical lead for urgent and emergency care, and had “approached a neighbouring trust” whose A&E was rated “good”, so that “best practice” could be shared between consultants.

During the June inspection four staff told the CQC they would not want relatives to be treated there over fears they “may deteriorate or die”. The watchdog also found care records were not always accurate and complete.

Natalie Billingham, 33, from Tipton, died in March, 72 hours after going to the hospital with flu-like symptoms and pain in her foot. It is not clear if Mrs Billingham’s death is one of the 54 which have caused concern.

Sadly, deaths in hospitals caused by negligence aren’t uncommon. We have just finalised a claim for a family whose husband and father, died as a result of the hospital he was being treated in prescribing two drugs at the same time which was contraindicated.  We are currently working on another case involving the death of a 19-year-old who we believe would not have died had he received better care.

It is very likely that a shortage of staff, resources and training is compounding these issues. However, we need to seek more specific answers to establish the root cause of any failings and put the systems and funding in place to help stem the worrying increase in deaths caused by negligence in the NHS.

Karen Cathcart is a medical negligence lawyer at Devonshires Claims with experience of these types of claims.

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