Hillsborough Doctors "On Back Foot"

8 January 2015, 15:35 | Updated: 8 January 2015, 15:41

The then senior consultant in A&E at the Northern General hospital's told the hearing that preparations were still being put in place to cope with the disaster as patients arrived through the doors in large numbers.

It led to the hospital putting its own emergency plan into action shortly after the first patient arrived at 3.27pm as staff were informed of the unfolding situation at the football ground by ambulance crews.

A switchboard operator at Northern General took a call from the South Yorkshire Police operations room at 3.14pm who was told: ``It's just to inform you there has been an accident at Hillsborough football ground and to put you on standby for casualties. There is quite a few people seriously injured apparently.''

And between 3.13pm and 3.22pm, the jury was told, that there were numerous mentions of a ``major incident'' in communications from South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (SYMAS) headquarters and that two overspill hospitals, Barnsley and Rotherham, had been informed directly of the development.

However the Northern General - the main receiving hospital for the casualties - was at no point told the same information from Symas HQ.

Dr James Wardrope said: ``Had the hospital received a formal notification at 3.14pm then the switchboard would have implemented the major incident plan and they would have undertaken the procedures set out in that plan for their area.

``The first priority would be to inform key areas such as the emergency department to call in more staff ... I would see if they had any more information about the nature of the severity of the casualties that we were receiving.

``We would be clearing patients, setting out extra resuscitation points, calling in extra staff and calling in staff from the rest of the hospital.''

He said it would have perhaps meant four or five more doctors could have been available to man the resuscitation area.

Dr Wardrope was on call on the day and was informed on the phone at about 3.20pm by a hospital charge nurse that they had been put on standby due to ``some type of incident'' at Hillsborough.

He arrived at the hospital just after 3.30pm and noticed an ``unusual number'' of ambulances outside.

Christina Lambert QC, counsel for the inquest, asked the doctor to give a sense of the numbers that were arriving.

He replied, with his voice breaking, that seriously ill patients were coming in ``large numbers''.

He said: ``Ambulances were sometimes bringing two, three or even, in one documented case, four seriously ill patients at once.''

Dr Wardrope told the hearing in Warrington that 56 patients were admitted within a hour and that 88 casualties came through the doors on the day.

Eleven were either pronounced dead or died in the A&E department.

He told Miss Lambert that he did not feel there were sufficient numbers of staff at his disposal initially to cope with the casualty numbers.

He said: ``My general observation is that at the start we did not have a chance to prepare the department or the hospital properly.

``We were already receiving seriously injured casualties when the major incident was called by the A&E department and that put us on the back foot.''

He said as opposed to ``ready steady go'' in a drill situation, they were ``go, go, go''.