THE Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust has been fined £2.5 million at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court after being prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission following the deaths of two patients in 2018.

The Trust, which runs Russells Hall Hospital, was also ordered to pay a £38,000 contribution to the CQC’s costs after admitting two breaches of the 2008 Health and Social Care Act.

The charges were brought by the CQC after an inquiry into the deaths of mother-of-six Natalie Billingham, 33, and 14-year-old Kaysie-Jane Robinson in March 2018.

Passing sentence on the trust, District Judge Graham Wilkinson said the deaths occurred after the trust “failed to act swiftly and decisively” to concerns raised by the CQC after inspections prior to the deaths.

The judge, who conceded that improvements in care had been made since the “dark days” of 2018, said one of the offences had caused the death of Kaysie-Jane.

The judge told the court: “Every patient that attends (an emergency department) has a right to expect that the care they receive will be safe.”

In a statement issued after the sentencing, Diane Wake, chief executive of the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We unequivocally accept that harm was caused to Kaysie-Jane Bland and Natalie Billingham in 2018 and that this should never have happened. We are deeply sorry that our care did not meet the standards Kaysie-Jane, Natalie and their families had a right to expect.

“Today’s hearing was an important step for the families in a long process. We want to apologise and offer our sincere condolences again to Kaysie-Jane and Natalie’s families.

“Although it will offer the families little comfort, we have learned from the failings that led to Kaysie-Jane and Natalie’s tragic deaths and made fundamental changes in the way our care is provided. These include significant improvements in electronic observations including the introduction, in November 2018, of electronic sepsis monitoring, which shows when a patient is deteriorating and reduces the risk of human error. All our healthcare staff have mandatory sepsis training.

“The Trust does not accept that it did not react to the concerns raised. The trust has an independent report that says the trust took urgent and significant steps to address the concerns and were already aware of and making improvements before the unannounced visits.

“Over the last three years, we have been open and transparent with our regulators about what went wrong, what we have learned and the actions we have taken to invest in and improve our services. We continue to work closely with CQC and want to reassure our patients and the public that the hospital provides a safe and compassionate environment for their care.”