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Parents Of Tragic Toddler Win Battle For Justice Against NHS Trust And Police


By Helen MacGregor

The heartbroken mother of a toddler who was falsely accused of murdering her son when he died in his sleep said she finally hopes to lay her son’s memories to rest after lawyers secured out-of-court settlements from the hospital trust and police.

Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell were instructed by the devastated family of little Alfie Podmore after he died as a result of doctors failing to recognise he was suffering from a life threatening infection.

Mum Abby Podmore’s nightmare began on 6th February 2011 when she found she could not wake her three-year-old son. Despite desperate attempts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at his home in Quinton, Birmingham, by paramedics.

Four days earlier, Alfie’s worried family had taken him to Birmingham Children’s Hospital A&E Department, suffering from a range of symptoms which should have identified that he was severely ill with pneumonia.

Instead doctors wrongly diagnosed a gastric illness and sent him home with antacid medication.

To make matters worse, within an hour of finding Alfie, a devastated Abby was arrested on suspicion of murder, questioned and held in custody overnight.

It was only after a doctor, acting as part of a Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy Investigation (SUDII), confirmed that Alfie had died of natural causes that the police realised Abby was completely innocent and released her over 24 hours later.

Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured Abby a five figure out-of-court settlement from Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust last year after it fully admitting that failings in medical care led to Alfie’s death.

Now, West Midlands Police has also agreed to pay Abby an undisclosed sum following her arrest and detention. No admission of liability was made.

Tom Riis-Bristow, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office who led the legal action to gain justice for Alfie’s death, said: 

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“The consequences of losing Alfie so suddenly and in such tragic circumstances have had a long lasting psychological effect on Abby.

“The out-of-court settlements will be used to help fund the ongoing psychiatric care she needs and will also provide the couple with funds to help them move house, as their present home has so many painful memories which they have understandably found extremely hard to deal with.

“Following our investigations, the hospital has assured Abby that the internal investigation carried out after Alfie’s death has led to important lessons being learnt and a number of changes to procedures have since been made which will hopefully mean that no other family has to suffer the same heartbreak.”
Tom Riis-Bristow, Solicitor

During an inquest into Alfie’s death in September 2011, Birmingham Coroner Aidan Cotter was told how doctors should have performed an X-ray on Alfie which could have identified that he was suffering from pneumonia.

The hospital admitted that prompt antibiotic treatment would in all likelihood have saved little Alfie’s life and as part of his narrative verdict the Coroner stated that Alfie died following a failure by the hospital to diagnose his illness correctly.

Dental nurse, Abby, together with her partner Thomas Arnott have since gone on to have another baby – a one-year-old boy named Henry who was born in November 2011 and they will get married in September 2013.

Abby said: “Alfie was my whole world. I loved him so much and did the very best I could for him. I knew in my heart that I couldn’t have done any more for my little boy. I put my trust in the hospital and believed the doctors and nurses when they told me he would be okay and to take him home.

“It’s been very difficult to trust medical professionals again and since Henry was born I have been very protective of him. Thomas and I are trying to move on with our lives for the sake of our new son, but little Alfie will always be a part of us.

“Last year we took Henry to the Algarve in Portugal. It was the last place we had enjoyed a family holiday with Alfie, who just loved playing on the beach and we felt it was a fitting tribute to his memory to take his little brother there.

“Its incredibly hard knowing that Henry will never know the older brother he should have been able to grow up with. When he is older we will tell him all about Alfie and how he was such a happy little boy, a real little livewire who loved life and was always smiling.

“Alfie was adored by his family and everyone whose lives he touched during his short time with us and he will never be forgotten. I’m just relieved the legal battles with both the NHS Trust and police are now over as we can finally look to begin rebuilding our lives.”
Tom Riis-Bristow added: “Although Abby and her family welcome the Hospital Trust’s apology for what happened, together with a full admission of liability and out of court settlement, sadly nothing can turn back the clock.

“Abby also recognises that the Police had a job to do and needed to fully investigate matters, but felt she was judged wrongly and shown a complete lack of sympathy which added to the trauma of Alfie’s death.

“We are pleased both cases have now successfully concluded and hope that any lessons that can be learnt by both the police and Trust have been implemented to prevent any other parents from going through similar heartache.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to medical negligence and action against the police claims