Socialist Worker

Some Hillsborough victims went to temporary mortuary due to lack of resources

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2436

A consultant has described how some victims of the Hillsborough disaster were taken to a temporary mortuary because there weren’t enough resources to treat them.

Some 96 Liverpool football fans died as a result of a crush at the Sheffield stadium in 1989.

James Wardrope was the consultant in charge of the A&E department at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital in 1989. He gave evidence into fresh inquests into the deaths last week.

Wardrope described seriously ill fans arriving “very quickly, in large numbers” as a result of the crush.

“There was a point when the resuscitation area became full and more than full,” he said. “I had to make a decision, and the decision was that those patients arriving in cardiac arrest were dead.”

The jury heard that Mrs Guthrie from South Yorkshire Police headquarters called the Northern General Hospital to inform it of the crush.

Mrs Guthrie said, “It’s just to inform you that there’s been an accident at the Hillsborough football ground and to put you on standby for casualties. There’s quite a few people injured apparently.”

Wardrope was then called into the hospital but said he didn’t have a sense that he would be dealing with a major disaster.

“If this was a major incident, and a major incident had been declared, I would have expected those words to be used,” he explained.

“The nature of a major incident means that you are having to mount an extraordinary response,” he added.


A nurse at the hospital, Charge Nurse Batty, later set in motion major incident procedures. But Wardrope said the delay affected the hospital’s ability to treat patients.

Wardrope told the jury, “We didn’t 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.”

Wardrope said that had a major incident been declared from the start, more staff could have been called in and patients cleared from the emergency department.

He said he thought there would have been “four or five” more doctors if that had happened. Wardrope confirmed that the treatment for patients in cardiac arrest would be cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But he said he couldn’t comment on whether those patients sent to the temporary mortuary could have survived.

Detective chief superintendent Terence Addis also gave evidence last week.

He described using nets to split up the gym at the stadium into areas for police, relatives and dead bodies.

Police ate fried chicken and chips in their area.

Stephen Simblet, representing some of the families, said, “One of the families who lost two people there, Kevin Traynor and Christopher Traynor who died, they were asked to do their identification while standing with the smell of fried chicken and crying relatives around them, which they found particularly distressing.”

The inquests continue.

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Tue 13 Jan 2015, 17:47 GMT
Issue No. 2436
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