Parents Join Medical Negligence Lawyers In Calling For Lessons To Be Learned
A couple have issued a meningitis warning after lawyers secured a settlement in connection with their 11-year-old daughter’s death following a delay in administering antibiotics.
Annalise Luffingham was admitted to A&E at Croydon University Hospital after her parents became concerned she had been suffering with a headache and eye pain for a week. She had also been suffering with dizziness and vomiting, confusion and a high temperature.
Annalise, known as Annie, wasn’t given antibiotics until nearly seven hours after her admission. Staff incorrectly completed a screening tool for sepsis - a condition which sees the body attack itself in response to an infection. If tests had been completed correctly, Annie, of from Addiscombe, Croydon, would have been transferred to a specialist paediatric team and should have started receiving intravenous antibiotics within an hour, an NHS investigation report found.
Just over an hour after the Royal Russell School pupil did receive antibiotics she suffered a cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated and transferred to another hospital. Annie died the following day.
Annie's parents ask lawyers to investigate
Following Annie’s death, her parents David Luffingham, 56, and Tracey Shephard, 51, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate Annie’s care under Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, which runs Croydon University Hospital.
The couple are now warning of the dangers of meningitis and the need for early detection and treatment.
Hospital Trust admits liability for girl's death
It comes after the couple’s legal team secured them an undisclosed settlement from the Hospital Trust in connection with Annie’s death and the trauma they’ve gone through. The Hospital Trust admitted liability for Annie’s death and apologised to David and Tracey.
In a letter to the couple, the Trust accepted “that the treatment provided to Annalise by the Trust fell below the standard of care she was entitled to expect and, in particular, that there were failures to recognise the severity of Annalise’s illness resulting in delays in providing appropriate treatment”. The Trust expressed “very real regret” that “opportunities were missed to prevent her death.”
As part of the settlement agreement, the Trust agreed to provide responses to questions asked by the family regarding lessons learnt following the investigation. A response from the Trust is currently awaited.
The settlement comes after an inquest in 2021 concluded that Annie’s death from sepsis caused by meningitis was as a result of natural causes contributed to by neglect.
Expert Opinion“Annie was a talented and academically gifted girl who had her whole life ahead of her. Understandably David and Tracey remain devastated by the events that unfolded and her subsequent death.
“While nothing can ever make up for what they’ve been through, we’re pleased that we’ve been able to secure this settlement, allowing David and Tracey to access the specialist support they require to try and come to terms with what happened.
“Sadly, through our work we often see the devastating consequences that families can be left to face because of delayed diagnosis and treatment of serious medical conditions such as meningitis.
“We join Tracey and David in raising awareness of the signs of meningitis and how early detection and treatment is key to beating it.
"However, it’s also vital that lessons are learned from this absolutely tragic case to improve care so others don’t have to face the heartbreak that David and Tracey have had to endure.” Dami Oloyede Dami Oloyede
Medical negligence: Annie Luffingham's story
Annie, a keen footballer and horse rider, was previously fit and healthy. She arrived at children’s A&E at Croydon University Hospital at about 10am on February 11, 2020. During an initial assessment, tests for sepsis were completed.
Shortly afterwards she was transferred to a team within the main A&E department instead of to a specialist paediatrics team. Annie, who aspired to be a vet, was then transferred to the paediatrics team at around 12.45pm.
Following more tests Annie was given ibuprofen and paracetamol. At 4pm a consultant prescribed antibiotics which were administered around half an hour later.
Annie suffered a cardiac arrest at around 5.50pm. She was resuscitated and transferred to another hospital. Annie died the following day.
Report makes 17 recommendations to improve patient care
Following her death, a Root Cause Analysis Investigation Report by Croydon Health Services NHS Trust found 11 problems in Annie’s care. These included that sepsis screening wasn’t completed correctly, staff failed to recognise Annie’s respiratory rate was raised, sepsis wasn’t considered as a diagnosis and there was a delay in starting intravenous antibiotics.
The report made 17 recommendations to improve care including staff undergo training, including for managing sepsis and meningitis, and intravenous antibiotics should be given within an hour where there is suspicion of sepsis or bacterial meningitis.
All patients’ notes should also be on an electronic system and not on paper, and staff need to improve written and verbal communication.
Annie's parents issue meningitis warning following death of "most wonderful daughter"
Tracey said: “Annie was the most wonderful daughter we could have ever wished for. She was bright, intelligent, articulate but also sporty and caring. She was mature for her years and wanted to be the best person she could be.
“Even more than three years on the hurt and pain we feel over her death is still as raw as it was the day she died.
“Our lives will never be the same without her. It’s devastating that she’ll never grow up and fulfil the potential she had.”
Following Annie’s death her parents were also supported by Meningitis Now, with friends and family raising thousands of pounds for the charity.
David added: “When Annie continued to deteriorate we thought the best place for her would be in hospital as we thought she would receive what care she needed to recover. That didn’t happen, and we now face a life without Annie. Although she was very poorly it remains hard not to think that when Annie needed help she was badly let down.
“We continue to be touched by the care and support we’ve received and how people have raised money in Annie’s memory.
“Nothing will ever fill the void we have in our lives left by Annie’s death but we’ll continue to raise awareness of how important it is people are aware of meningitis and the need to seek medical advice as soon as possible. It’s too late for Annie but we just hope that we can help others from going through what we have.”
More information about meningitis
More information about meningitis, its symptoms and support available can be found on the website of the charity Meningitis Now.