Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

Girl Dies after Doctor's says going to Hospital would be a 4 hour Waste of Time

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 12/04/2013

It has been reported in the news that a 5-year-old girl died from meningitis after being told by a doctor that referring her to hospital would be a "4-hour waste of time".

The child had first starting feeling unwell on the night of 25 February and was vomiting hourly throughout the night. Her parents had therefore taken her to see an out-of-hours GP who had thought that she was suffering from viral gastroenteritis (a stomach bug), despite a rash on her chin, stomach and legs - symptoms of meningitis.

She was seen again the following morning by a doctor at her local surgery and her mother spoke to a third by telephone in the days before her daughter died.

One GP said he could refer the child to the hospital to be seen but it would only be a "4-hour waste of time".

Three hours after her last examination, the child suffered a fit and was admitted to Bristol Children's Hospital. She was placed on life support but deteriorated and sadly died on 28 February 2012.

A narrative verdict was recorded by the Avon Coroner Maria Voisin.

Mrs Voisin said she was mindful of both the child's presentation when she was seen by each doctor and the evidence of the 2 consultants from the children's hospital. "It is clear from their evidence that earlier intervention is better but what cannot be said is whether earlier treatment would have resulted in a different outcome for Kelsey. So based on the evidence I consider the appropriate verdict to be a narrative verdict."

Her mother said in her statement read to the inquest: "We had a meeting with a senior doctor and the Orchard Medical Centre, a Dr Yates, who suggested that our daughter had been let down by the doctors treating her. These feelings are echoed by myself and my entire family. I am concerned that at no point did any of the Frendoc [out of hours GP service] staff or any of the staff at the GP surgery inform me about meningitis and what to look out for. I believe now that she had signs and symptoms pointing to meningitis."

It is clear that a delayed diagnosis of meningitis can result in catastrophic injuries and even death. This child saw 2 GPs in the days before her death, both of whom failed to spot she had contracted meningitis.

Sadly, the failure to recognise symptoms of meningitis by health care professionals is not as uncommon as we would like. Similar cases have identified a GP’s failure to diagnose meningitis and refer to hospital immediately, and when finally admitted, the hospital has also failed to investigate the victim's condition in a timely manner causing the victim to suffer permanent profound sensorineural hearing loss, which was attributed entirely to those medical failures.

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