Stoke & Staffordshire

Baby refused access to Stafford Hospital dies

Holly Waters
Image caption Stafford baby Holly Waters died after she was refused access to her town's hospital

A seven-month old baby died after being refused access to Stafford Hospital because its A&E department is shut at night and the children's ward was full.

Holly Waters was pronounced dead on arrival at University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) after a 22-mile (35km) journey by ambulance on 28 June.

She lived 2.5 miles (4km) from Stafford Hospital.

A hospital spokesman said the paediatric ward had been full and handling an emergency at the time.

Holly, who up until that point had been a normal, healthy baby, was found unconscious in her cot by her mother, Charlotte Waters.

'Still be here'

The family called 999 and a paramedic arrived four minutes later at 22:46 BST.

It was at 23:37 BST that the baby reached the Stoke-on-Trent hospital.

Stafford Hospital's A&E has been shut from 22:00 to 08:00 since December, as Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust needs to recruit additional staff.

Holly's father Sean Birch said this - and an already full children's ward - had led to up to a 20-minute delay.

Mr Birch said: "We were actually told that she died two minutes away from North Staffordshire, but if she had gone to Stafford Hospital and they had managed to put a drip in and stabilise her, then send her to North Staffordshire, she would still be here today."

Both West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Mid Staffordshire trust said it was impossible to say whether admitting Holly to Stafford Hospital would have made a difference.

According to the ambulance service, both the officer at the scene and ambulance control contacted Stafford's A&E department but were told the unit could not accept Holly.

Requests to take the baby to the children's ward at Stafford were also refused, the ambulance service said.

'Protocol followed'

Colin Ovington, director of nursing and midwifery at Stafford Hospital, claimed it would have been unsafe for the paediatric unit to have accepted Holly.

"The staff were already treating a very seriously ill child who had been brought in as an emergency and they were also caring for a number of other emergency admissions and sick children," he said.

"The staff correctly followed the joint protocol between the hospital and West Midlands Ambulance Service for these circumstances."

In a statement, Mid Staffordshire trust said: "When contacted by the West Midlands ambulance crew, our paediatric ward told the crew that they were unable to accept the baby because they did not have the capacity in the ward and were already dealing with an emergency.

"As per the agreed protocol, the ambulance crew were directed to take the baby to UHNS.

"The ambulance crew also contacted our A&E department, who repeated the instruction that the baby should be taken to UHNS.

"Following an internal investigation, this was not reported as a serious incident.

"There was no reason to discipline or suspend any member of staff."

A spokeswoman for NHS Midlands and East, the strategic health authority, said it had not been informed about the incident.

"It is disappointing that this incident was not formally reported and we are now seeking assurances from the NHS organisations that this is being investigated, in order to fully understand what took place," she said.

An initial post-mortem examination was unable to find the cause of death.

An inquest will be held in due course.

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