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NHS hospital trust facing prosecution after death of woman and child 

A hospital trust is facing prosecution for alleged breaches of patient safety that are said to have led to the deaths of a mother of six and a child who was brain damaged at birth.

The Care Quality Commission, which regulates NHS and social care in England, has charged Dudley group NHS foundation trust with providing illegally substandard care. The West Midlands trust is due to appear at Dudley magistrates court on Wednesday over alleged lapses in safety and patient care at Russells Hall hospital in the town.

The CQC claims the hospital breached its duty under regulations 12 and 22 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 to ensure patients receive safe care and treatment and are protected from avoidable harm.

It is only the fifth time the regulator has prosecuted an NHS trust and the second time it has laid charges against an acute hospital. The previous three prosecutions involved mental health trusts. When the CQC uses its powers in this way it is usually to prosecute care homes over poor safety.

The watchdog claims that in both cases the patient died after being exposed to significant risk of avoidable harm while being cared for at Russells Hall.

The first charge relates to the death of Natalie Billingham, 33, who died at the hospital in March 2018 after developing sepsis. The second case involves the death of Kaysie-Jane Bland, who was left with serious and permanent injuries and profoundly disabled as a result of being starved of oxygen during her birth at Wordsley hospital. She had cerebral palsy and was unable to walk, speak or sit by herself. In 2010 her mother, Jane Robinson, won a legal action for damages against the trust.

The trust did not say how it would plead. In a statement it said: “It would be inappropriate for the trust to comment on the CQC prosecution while court proceedings are active. We do, however, want to reassure our patients and the public that the hospital provides a safe and compassionate environment for their care and that we continue to build upon the service improvements we have made over the last few years.”

Two of the CQC’s four previous prosecutions of NHS trusts have been against Southern Health and Avon and Somerset mental health trusts. In each case a patient sustained serious injuries after falling from a roof. The trusts were fined £125,00 and £80,000 respectively.

Sussex Partnership mental health trust was fined £200,000 after a patient in Lewes prison, who was known as a suicide risk, took their own life.

The CQC also prosecuted Plymouth Hospitals NHS trust last year for a breach of its legal “duty of candour” towards patients and their families when something went wrong.

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