NHS trust admits safety failings after two patient deaths

An NHS trust has pleaded guilty to safety failings posing a “significant risk of avoidable harm” following the deaths of two patients.

A lawyer acting for the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust admitted two breaches of the 2008 Health and Social Care Act on the Trust’s behalf on Friday.

A hearing at the town’s magistrates’ court was told the proceedings followed an investigation by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) into the care provided by the Trust before the deaths of mother-of-six Natalie Billingham and teenager Kaysie-Jane Robinson.

Russells Hall Hospital Dudley
Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, West Midlands, where both deaths occurred. (Jacob King/PA)

The charges admitted by the trust stated that it had failed to provide treatment in a safe way, resulting in harm, in February and March 2018.

In a statement issued earlier this year, the CQC said it had brought the prosecution following two specific incidents in which patients died at Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley.

A previous hearing was told by counsel for the CQC, Ian Bridge, that the charges related to clinical care given to 33-year-old Ms Billingham before her death, and to Kaysie-Jane, who was aged 14 when she died.

He told the court both patients had been treated for sepsis.

The Dudley Group Trust’s lawyer, Paul Spencer, said the organisation’s guilty plea in respect of Natalie Billingham was being entered on the basis that it did not accept its failings led to her death.

But Mr Spencer added that the trust did accept that the “poor care and treatment” of Kaysie-Jane Robinson had caused her death.

Adjourning the case, which was not opened by the prosecution, District Judge Graham Wilkinson described the proceedings as “the most serious case this court is likely to deal with in many a year”.

Judge Wilkinson told the lawyers involved in the case: “I am grateful that we have made significant progress this afternoon.

“I am sure the families will be grateful as well.”

The Trust said in a statement: “We are deeply sorry that our care did not meet the high standards Kaysie-Jane and Natalie and their families had a right to expect and did not reflect the values of our Trust.

“Today’s hearing is an important part of the process that has investigated what happened, provides an opportunity to reiterate our apology to Kaysie-Jane and Natalie’s families and demonstrates the major steps we have taken to invest in and improve our services since 2018.

“We have been open and sincere over the last three years about what went wrong, what we have learned and how we have improved.

“The Trust continues to work closely with CQC and we want to reassure our patients and the public that the hospital provides a safe and compassionate environment for their care.”

A further case management hearing will take place at the same court on September 3.