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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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  • Unbelievable that the Trust to save face starts to blame the Ambulance Service, nurse and doctors. I find it hard to believe that a paramedic, nurse or Dr would ignore a patient outside of A&E unless they were involved in another emergency. Do the country want to keep the staff in the emergency services because this kind of thing just stops people from staying and others from joining. Who wants to come to work to be in a position that you can end up being sent to goal, your career and reputation in tatters and public vilification? We work for poor pay and hard conditions under huge amounts of stress, are put in situations daily that are detrimental to our health, no support from management, constant criticism and they wonder why people become burnt out and unable to give anymore. Time for the govt and the Dept of Health, NHS managers to wake and see the staff are not robots but for the most part hard working kind people who came to work in the NHS to help people.

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  • In a busy A&E dept, I should imagine that paramedics, doctors and nurses, as well as non medicla staff, are too busy doing their jobs to notice that someone has collapsed outside the dept. However, if staff are aware of the collapsed patient and do nothing about it then of course that is wrong on all levels. Having said that, it could and should be argued that if a patient has mental capacity and walks off the ward then they have effectively discharged themselves. Having accompanied paramedics in an ambulance for 12 hours I would be very suprised if paramedic could walk past a patient. Even if coming into the hospital they had to walk past the patient because they were bringing in another sick patient, surely they would alert staff in the hospital or go back and attend the patient once their own patients had been safely deposited in A&E? I must also say that the culture in the NHS today is partly to blame for lack of responsibility for the collapsed patient. We are all working our guts out trying to support those patients we already have without having to deal with patients who have decided to wander off the dept in which they are being waiting to be treated. And would it be wrong to ask the question, did the patient go outside to have a smoke? Yes, the patient ought to have been helped, but that doesn't negate a patient's reponsibility for their own health and safety.

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  • A nurses duty of care means he/she must at least call an ambulance for a patient and stay with patient until ambulance arrives. We are not legally obliged to provide CPR. A nurse having been made aware of a collapsed patient would be in breach of NMC Code by not attending to patient, but not by not giving CPR.

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  • Whilst there is no 'Good Samaritan' legislation in this country - the 'duty of care' is enshrined in our code of ethics.

    Civil law also recognises 'duty of care' and the land outside of the A&E dept would have been deemed 'hospital premises' in the same way that the land inside the A&E is 'on the premises'.

    You cannot force a patient to remain on site - this would be kidnap or false imprisionment - so the patient must take responsiblity for leaving and not telling anyone.

    Whilst it would appear that once staff where made aware of the situation, they failed to respond to it - in this country, one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law - so lets be careful not to prejudge.

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