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NHS Whistleblower

National Newspaper - February 2013

Sarah Fellows approached our publicist Jonathan Hartley after she felt the authorities were not properly investigating allegations that a nurse had taped a dummy to her baby son's mouth while he was being cared for in hospital.
Jonathan arranged interviews for Sarah in newspapers and TV and despite the health authority's attempt to disrupt the story by leaking it themselves their was widespread publicity in the newspapers and on various TV channels.
As a result of the publicity- including an appearance on ITV's This Morning- the police and health authority are not properly investigating what happened.
Sarah never sought any money for the story but felt that it had been hushed up.Mother's horror as nurse tapes dummy in mouth of her premature baby boy

Baby Mason was in intensive care at Stafford Hospital when a nurse tapped a dummy in his mouth to stop him crying 
Staffordshire Police launch investigation into the incident 
Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said the baby boy was unharmed
One member of staff has been suspended over the incident
The trust is already at the centre of a public inquiry into failings of care
Up to 1,200 patients are thought to have died from poor care at the hospital

A premature baby being treated at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital had a dummy taped to his mouth by a nurse to prevent him crying, it was revealed yesterday.

The incident was described by experts as extremely dangerous – the infant was struggling to breath – and the hospital has apologised to the family.

A nurse has been suspended while police investigate what happened. 

Mason Fellows and twin Reece were born 11 weeks premature but were both doing well until Mason contracted the common childhood virus bronchiolitis and was re-admitted earlier this month.

But their mother Sarah was astonished to receive a phone call from a nurse on the children’s ward, informing her that the four-month-old boy, who weighed just 8lb, had been discovered with the dummy strapped to his mouth by surgical tape.

A consultant paediatrician told the Daily Mail that taping a dummy to a baby’s mouth was ‘extremely dangerous’ because of the potential to inhibit breathing.

The scandal comes less than a fortnight before publication of the result of a public inquiry into failings at the notorious hospital – where up to 1,200 patients may have died ‘unnecessarily’ through poor care or neglect.
Miss Fellows, 28, told the Daily Mail yesterday Mason had been heavily congested when the incident happened three nights after he was admitted to the hospital.

He was discharged the following day, but it was another 48 hours before a senior nurse called Miss Fellows to tell her what had happened. ‘I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when she explained what had gone on,’ the mother said.

‘I was tormenting myself at the thought this nurse could have continued looking after Mason despite doing what she did to him.

‘It would be considered cruel to force a dummy into a baby’s mouth at any time, but for a nurse to do it to a baby who was struggling to breathe through his nose was not only cruel but also potentially dangerous.
‘I’m so angry. Mason has a weak respiratory system because he was born premature and he could have suffocated. He may need to go back to hospital. It terrifies me that this nurse could be free to do this again to him or somebody else.’ 

The suspended nurse is said to have admitted seeing the dummy taped to Mason’s face and failing to remove it, but denies she was responsible for putting it there.
Miss Fellows, herself a trainee nurse, said whoever put the dummy in Mason’s mouth ‘obviously couldn’t be bothered to tend to a crying baby and just shoved the dummy in to try and shut him up’.

‘Even after all the horror stories surrounding Stafford Hospital, I never thought it was possible for something like this to happen.’

The pregnancy had already proved traumatic for Miss Fellows and partner Lee Denny, 39, before their identical twins’ arrival at Walsall Manor Hospital on September 3, her local hospital at the time she became pregnant.

At 23 weeks, she needed emergency surgery after it was discovered the twins were at risk because of abnormally connected blood vessels in the shared placenta. 

The surgery stabilised the twins enough for them to last a further six weeks in the womb.

Mason was born weighing 2lb 10oz, while Reece was 2lb 5oz. The twins were transferred to the neo-natal unit of Birmingham’s City Hospital, where they remained until Reece was discharged in mid-November. 

Mason was discharged three weeks later, on December 1. 

For the next fortnight, Miss Fellows, 28, who is now separated from Mr Denny had the twins and their two older children Jack, five and Elysia, two, together at her home in Cannock, Staffordshire.

Then both twins fell ill with bronchiolitis, which causes inflammation in the lungs, and were admitted to Stafford Hospital for the first time. 

They were discharged on December 22 but Mason was readmitted on New Year’s Day and was in his own room when a senior nurse made the horrifying discovery. The dummy had been strapped twice on each side to the child’s cheeks.

Dr Peter Sidebotham, a consultant paediatrician at Warwick Medical School who specialises in child protection work, including within hospital A&E departments, said: ‘This carries very serious risks. Babies have the capacity to spit a dummy out, but if they were unable to do that, not only could breathing be compromised, but if they vomited, they could choke to death.

‘It is the last thing a health professional should do.’

Colin Ovington, director of nursing and midwifery at the trust, said: ‘The incident is under investigation by the police and so we are unable to give more information. 

'We cannot emphasise strongly enough that it is exceptional and apologise again to the family.’