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Walsall Healthcare Trust

Two nurses sacked over death outside A&E

  • 48 Comments

Two nurses, a receptionist and a hospital porter have been sacked by Walsall Healthcare Trust for failing to respond to a man who collapsed and died outside its accident and emergency department.

Two other staff have received written warnings, the trust announced today.

The action follows an investigation into the death of 47-year-old Carl Cope who suffered a fatal heart attack near the entrance to the hospital’s A&E on 23 June this year.

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 the hospital where he collapsed.

The trust said it was considering referring the two nurses involved to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

In total 11 NHS staff were suspended over the incident, four from West Midlands Ambulance Service and seven from the acute trust.

One paramedic was sacked in August following an investigation. Another resigned while two other ambulance staff received written warnings. They have all been referred to the Health Professions Council.

Richard Kirby, chief executive at Walsall Healthcare Trust, told Nursing Times: “The staff saw what was going and did not respond in the way they should have done.”

He added: “I sincerely hope this is one of those incredibly upsetting but rare incidents that happen rather than a sign of a broader cultural problem at the trust.

“The level of care provided to this patient was unacceptable and fell well below our aim to provide a consistently first class experience to all those that use our services,” he said.

A formal joint review by the trust and the ambulance service will now be carried out and action will also be taken to improve the way patients are tracked within the A&E department.

In addition, the trust has invested £100,000 in employing more nurses in its A&E department and has appointed three new A&E consultants.

  • 48 Comments

Readers' comments (48)

  • what is the legal position and who takes responsibility when a patient asks to leave the ward against medical advice to go to the canteen, go for a cigarette, just get off the ward for a while?

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  • Anonymous | 18-Oct-2012 5:17 pm the official legal position is that you can do nothing about it, they can do whatever the hell they like but can blame you if anything goes wrong, then the trust will close ranks, shout a lot of crap about learning lessons and then throw the nurse involved to the wolves to get the sack, have their career ruined, reported to the NMC and/or personally sued.

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  • After discussion with a doctor, the patient, the relatives should patients sign a declaration in their notes saying they wish to leave the ward and will take responsibility if anything happens to them - alternatively sign a self discharge form each time they leave.

    I'm constantly being asked (or usually told) by patients and relatives that they are 'just going off for a while' when the nurses and doctors have advised against it. There have been many times when patients have not been available or late for ward-rounds, obs, drug-rounds, meals, xrays, procedures. Some have gone for ages, to the bank etc. - how long should we keep a bed open for? When should we send out the search party?

    It puts us in a very difficult position and is something that needs to be addressed urgently.

    My own feeling is that if you are ill/unsafe enough to need a hospital bed then you should stay there. Gone are the days when nurses could accompany a patient who wanted to go out for a fag.

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  • This is far becoming a common ground blaming and sacking nurses and carers etc, but nurses lose there pins and can no longer work as nurses, all that training gone! my trust is going through all this at present, we are in the firing line for bad management of our A&E dept when it goes wrong we nurses get the blame. The volume of patients is atrocious the staffing levels are dire the pressures are immense so things will be missed, patients will go out for cigs/walks and we cannot babysit them or one to one care them! we cannot win over bad management and neither can the patients!

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  • do nurses have the legal right to refuse to leave the ward or send a member of staff off the ward so a patient can go for a ciggie, cup of tea, get the papers?

    does anyone know why this patient was outside?

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  • This is an interesting and disturbing story, but the reader needs to be able to read more of the facts of the incident before we draw any conclusions.

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  • Has a Doctor been disciplined? Why not? Typical scapegoating, those nurses should appeal this decision straight away, there is nothing a nurse can do if a patient decides to leave the premises.

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  • Ellen Watters

    If someone collapses in front of you, no matter who they are, or why they are there or if it's your responsibility or not, you try to help them. Surely this is basic human compassion.

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  • Hear, hear, Ellen - we do not know what actually happened and reading the article closely the statement was that people saw what was going on and did not respond appropriately. This may not be about letting people leave the ward whether allowed or not but about what hospital staff did to help the man when he did collapse. Realistically, something pretty dire happened if 11 people have been involved (or rather did not get involved) with this man. I think we need to be very careful calling them scapegoats. If errors have been made then we do have to take responsibility for our actions or inaction. However, if scapegoats they are then this will be for further investigation to clarify. We need more information before we jump to any conclusions.

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  • The fact that the Trust have employed more nursing and medical staff since this event suggests there were shortfalls at the time.

    I wonder if those responsible for the staffing shortfalls and lack of investment, i.e. Senior Management, will also be held to account???

    If the staffing situation was not related to the incident, why is it being mentioned in the context of the story?

    It would be useful if NT published more of the detail so that readers are more fully aware of the circumstances surrounding this tragic situation.

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