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Walsall Healthcare Trust

Five NHS staff arrested in connection with A&E death


Four ambulance staff and a hospital worker have been arrested by police in connection with the death of a man outside an accident and emergency department earlier this year.

West Midlands Police said five people have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence and misconduct in a public office following the incident at Walsall Manor Hospital on 23 June this year.

The arrests follow an investigation by Walsall Healthcare Trust and West Midlands Ambulance Service into the death of 47-year-old Carl Cope who died after collapsing to the ground.

As previously reported by Nursing Times, two nurses, a receptionist and a hospital porter were sacked by Walsall Healthcare Trust for failing to respond to Mr Cope while two other staff, a receptionist and a porter, received written warnings.

One paramedic from West Midlands Ambulance Service was sacked in August. Another resigned while two other ambulance staff received written warnings.

However, West Midlands Police has now confirmed it is investigating the death and last week four ambulance workers aged 26, 34, 45 and 53 were arrested and have since been bailed pending further enquiries.

On 14 December a 44-year-old member of staff from Walsall Manor Hospital was also arrested and questioned by police.

Mr Cope was taken to the hospital by paramedics after dialling 999 complaining of chest pains. He had not been discharged when he went outside and collapsed. A post mortem revealed he died of a heart attack.

A formal joint review between the hospital and the ambulance service is underway and action has been taken to improve the way patients are tracked within the A&E department.

The trust has also had a £100,000 investment in more nurses and three new consultants in its A&E department.


Readers' comments (14)

  • michael stone

    The law for this area is, so far as I can work out (and I'm going on something the RC(UK) wrote about it, and normally I consider the RC(UK) as an unrelaible source) is interesting.

    It appears, that a layman has no legal obligation to 'help' a dying person - you can just walk on by, and do nothing, unless you yourself caused the injury (if you caused the injury, you have to help).

    But there is some case law, especially for paramedics, which has established a sort of 'duty-via-your-role' to provide assistance - so HCPs are more-or-less obliged to 'help'.

    It is an interesting distinction.

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  • what action has been taken against the members of the public who walked past this man but had time to film it on their mobile phones?

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  • There is no compunction under UK law for anyone to assist another person in a public place. As a HCP you do not have a duty of care until you identify yourself and offer to help, or you can be identified as an HCP, at which point you may have a duty of care for that person, and you may be in breach of your code of conduct.
    If the incident happened, as this did, on your hospital's premises then there is a duty of care as part of your contract.

    A few years back I was at a football match when one of the players appeared to have been knocked out, I wanted to go and assist, but the stewards refused to let me go round the perimeter of the pitch and so I was prevented fom fulfilling my moral obligation. In France and other EU countries there is a legal obligation to stop and assist at RTCs, but this obligation is fulfilled if you call 112 to ask for help.

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  • Compunction?

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  • In the presence of the police or ambulance in France they will not always accept the offer of help from a UK doctor or other HC professional.

    Where I work in Europe, if somebody collapses outside A&E as I once witnessed doctors and nurses from within the department are not permitted to come out and help as an ambulance has to be called to transport the patient into the hospital. This is an insurance issue.

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  • I feel so vulnerable and anxious when patients leave the ward against medical advice, I wish it were law to make patients sign a disclaimer. If a patient is at risk because they lack capacity they need a DOLS assessment. If patients have capacity but choose to leave the ward then who should take responsibility when they are taken ill off the ward area?

    Do patients and relatives realise the danger they pose when they go off for a fag, go down to the canteen? If you are ill and in hospital then surely you have a responsibility to stay where the staff can look after you.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 18-Dec-2012 7:29 pm

    'If you are ill and in hospital then surely you have a responsibility to stay where the staff can look after you.'

    I suppose it depends on how ill you are known to be, and whether mobility/independence is encouraged to stop patients from 'becoming dependent'.

    This issue is quite complex, but as the third poster pointed out, this chap collapsed on the doorstep of an A&E dept - I think 'the man on the Clapham Omnibus' would expect clinicians to react immediately, in that situation ?!

    By the way, I wouldn't be at all surprised if nurses are given confused and muddled guidance in this area - they are given 'rubbish guidance' in the area I'm debating with the NHS.

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  • £100 000 for 3 consultants and more nurses....?

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  • Anonymous | 19-Dec-2012 12:10 pm

    that's 25k per consultant and 12.5k per nurse (2 based on lack of information), or is it for temporary staffing ;) Some investment LOL

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  • Anonymous 7-14pm (2) in France everyone has to assist at an RTC, not just HCPs. France and Germany have Good Samaritan laws which we don't. They may not accept the offer of help, but the offer has been made, therefore your obligation to assist has been fulfilled.

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