Hospital Admits Meningitis Errors Caused Eight-Month-Old To Suffer Brain Injury

Meningitis Misdiagnosis

20.09.2010

The mother of a baby who suffered serious brain damage as a result of significant delays in diagnosing and treating her meningitis at Colchester Hospital, has pleaded for the hospital to learn from its errors.

Medical law specialists at Irwin Mitchell, representing the family, are also supporting Meningitis Awareness week which runs from 20-26 September 2010, focusing on raising awareness of the illness in young people.

Ellie Sutton, now aged five, was just eight months old when she was referred to the paediatric unit at Colchester Hospital after her GP suspected she was suffering from meningitis.

But she was discharged less than an hour later after being seen by a medical student despite the fact that an initial assessment recorded her temperature as 39.9°c – higher than the hospital’s own guidelines which recommend that any child with a temperature of more than 38°c should be kept in and monitored hourly.

Even after Ellie’s mother, Sarah Gill, took her back to the hospital later that evening and the doctor recommended her condition was investigated further, a medical review was not conducted until the ward rounds 11 hours later.

As a result of the delays Ellie has been left with severe brain damage and will now need care and assistance for the rest of her life.

Sarah Gill said: “Ever since the illness Ellie has had some mobility problems due to weakness and sensory impairment in her right side, and she also now suffers from severe learning difficulties, limited speech and behavioural problems”

“What is most upsetting is that Ellie’s injuries could easily have been avoided, if only the hospital had followed its own guidelines and given Ellie a better standard of care. We put our trust in these professionals and they failed with disastrous consequences"

Medical law specialists at Irwin Mitchell are now negotiating a care package on behalf of the family, after the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust admitted that without the delays in treatment Ellie would have made a full recovery.

Tom Mather, Partner in the Medical Law team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The hospital missed several opportunities to recognise that Ellie was severely ill, despite Ms Gill’s concern over her daughter’s condition.

“It is particularly difficult to accept that the hospital did not follow its own guidelines, and that there was an 11 hour delay even when it had been acknowledged that Ellie may have been suffering from a serious illness.

“As a result of these errors Ellie will have very significant long term care needs and it is likely that she will never be able to look after herself, and we are working to ensure Ellie is provided with the very best rehabilitation and care available.

“It is vital the hospital learns lessons from these serious mistakes to make sure this situation can never happen again.”