THE head of the county’s hospitals fears he could be ‘facing prison for manslaughter charges’ if NHS bosses leave him in the dark again over dangerously admitting more patients to an already overcrowded A&E.

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, hit out at West Midlands health bosses for failing to keep him in the loop over an "unsafe" decision to send more ambulances to the overcrowded Worcestershire Royal Hospital during a strike.

The move angered Mr Hopkins who said he would be the one behind bars if the worst did happen to a patient because of the slip-up.

The crisis at Worcestershire Royal Hospital reached disturbing levels on December 20 last year, during the second nurses’ strike, when the city’s crammed A&E was more than three times over capacity – with 176 people packed into a building only built for 50 people.

Matters were made worse by the decision by higher-up NHS bosses to bring 18 patients into Worcestershire Royal Hospital without telling the chief executive of the hospital.

A critical incident was also declared at the hospital because of days of “sustained and extreme pressure."

The frustrated chief criticised the lack of communication between the region’s NHS bosses and said he and those others accountable at Worcestershire Royal Hospital would “end up in prison if there was a manslaughter charge” because of knowingly bringing patients into an already overcrowded hospital.

“It was, and is, a very unsafe environment,” he told the acute trust board at a meeting on January 12.

Mr Hopkins apologised for the mess during the nurses' strike and ahead of the next day’s ambulance strike and said he was unable to prevent it from happening because he was not told until the patients had already arrived.

“I wasn’t able to stop it because I wasn’t aware that it was going to happen," he said. “I only found out when … I was informed that it had happened.”

No reported incidents were on the day, according to the trust, but Mr Hopkins admitted it was ‘more luck than anything else.’

Every possible ward at the city’s hospital was desperately being used to find space for patients and crammed corridors had “already been pushed to the extreme” according to the trust’s chief executive.

“This isn’t sustainable. This isn’t a sustainable way of running acute hospitals and the NHS and something has to change,” he added.

  • This article was amended on January 18 to reflect that the 18 patients were not diverted to Worcestershire Royal Hospital but were being looked after prior to admission, or in ambulances outside A&E.