Police are investigating a nurse after a four-month-old baby boy was found lying in a cot in intensive care at a scandal-hit hospital – with a dummy taped to its mouth.
Mason Fellows was discovered by horrified staff at Stafford Hospital earlier this month with his mouth blocked by the plastic pacifier. Mason is the twin of Reece Fellows and they were born on September 3 last year two-and-a-half months premature.
Mason, who weighed just 2lb, and Reece, who weighed 2.5lb, were born at Walsall Manor Hospital before being moved to Birmingham Children’s Hospital suffering from chest infections and breathing problems.
Hospital bosses today confirmed they had suspended a female nurse, who has not been named, and informed the police who have launched an investigation.
Mum Sarah Fellows, 28, a trainee nurse, kept a bedside vigil with her sons as they battled to stay alive after suffering a catalogue of medical problems.
Sarah, and boyfriend Lee Denning, 39, finally brought their sons home at the beginning of December but Mason was rushed to Stafford Hospital after he suffered breathing problems.
It was while he recovered in hospital from his latest bout of breathing difficulties that a nurse found a dummy taped over Mason’s mouth lodging it inside his mouth.
Gran Diane Denning, 69, from Cannock, Staffs., said: “I am furious. How can a human being do this to an innocent, defenceless baby?
“To my mind, this is nothing less than torture.
“I might have had a stroke and be bed bound but if I ever get my hands on the person who did this to Mason they will wish they were never born.
“Sarah was visiting Mason in hospital after her latest problems but when she arrived she found police and nurses surrounding his cot.
“The officer told her a member of staff had alerted them after seeing a dummy taped across Mason’s mouth.
“There were no other tubes or wires attached to Mason so the only conclusion can be is that the dummy was taped over his mouth in order to stop him crying.
“Mason had breathing problems and wouldn’t have been able to spit the dummy out. It could have killed him.
“It’s just terrible, I’m appalled and does nothing to improve the reputation of this hospital any good at all.”
Sarah has two other children, Jack, five-and-a-half, from a previous relationship, and two-year-old daughter Alysia, who is also Lee’s daughter.
Sarah’s brother Paul Fellows, 41, expressed his anger last night at the “appalling” treatment of his nephew.
He said: “It’s an absolute disgrace, these were two premature twins and they tape this thing to one of their mouths.
“Sarah was devastated by it, utterly shocked.
“What made it worse was that another nurse said they had seen the tape and not done anything about it.
“They thought it was OK to do this.
“It’s bizarre and an appalling way to treat a child.
“My sister is a fantastic mother, I have two kids and she loves to look after them let alone how well she treats her own kids.
“This whole thing is disgusting, the baby was only about a month old when it happened.”
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: “Officers from our Protecting Vulnerable People Department are at the very early stages of investigating a complaint concerning the treatment of a baby boy by a member of staff at Stafford Hospital earlier this month.
“The baby boy, who was four months old at the time, was not harmed as a result. We are liaising closely with his family and the NHS Trust concerning the matter.”
Colin Ovington, Director of Nursing and Midwifery at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to poor patient care and we take immediate, appropriate action as soon as we know about any potential serious incidents which happen in our hospitals.
“We are proud that our staff now feel confident to report any incidents which happen.
“We will continue to encourage staff to do this, and will continue to report incidents, even before they have been fully investigated, despite any negative attention this may create.
“One of our recent incidents involved a dummy that was found taped onto a baby’s face.
“Fortunately, the baby was unharmed.
“The incident is under investigation by the police and so we are unable to give any more information at the moment.
“A member of staff has been suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation and the trust’s investigation under our disciplinary policy.
“We cannot emphasise strongly enough that this incident is exceptional and apologise again to the family.
“We want other hospitals to learn from this incident so that we can be sure that it does not happen to any other baby.”
Julie Bailey, 50, of campaign group Cure the NHS, who highlighted the problems at Stafford Hospital after her mother died in 2007, said: “It’s a disgrace that this could happen to a little child.
“It’s almost bordering on child abuse – if a parent did that they put in prison.
“Imagine what could have happened if he had been sick – it doesn’t bear thinking about.
“It just goes from one disaster to the next for Stafford Hospital.
“We need to see it shut down and made safe before being reopened ward by ward with full competency checks put in place.
“The place is not fit for purpose.”
A report into failings at the trust which were sparked after up to 1,200 more people died than should have done between 2005 and 2008 will be published on February 6.