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Parents Campaign To Raise Awareness Of Meningitis Following Hospital’s ‘Missed Opportunity’ To Diagnose Infection

Family Joins Irwin Mitchell In Warning Of Dangers Of Infection

25.04.2019

Andrew Hewitt, Press Officer | 0114 274 4255

A couple are campaigning to raise awareness of the signs of meningitis after their young son suffered brain damage when hospital staff failed to diagnose his infection following a disagreement about his care with his parents.

Freddie O’Driscoll was taken by ambulance to Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield with symptoms including vomiting, lethargy and wheezing. He was also grey, had not been drinking fluids and had sunken eyes and had a significantly high temperature. His parents, Rachel Henderson and Tyler O’Driscoll raised concerns with hospital staff that he may have been suffering from meningitis.

However, the then 11-month-old was sent home early the following morning. Staff believed he was suffering from a chest infection and gastroenteritis.

Freddie, of Hockley, Tamworth, was readmitted to hospital later that day and placed on intravenous antibiotics in the early hours of the following day. However, it was not until more than 12 hours later that he underwent a lumbar puncture to officially diagnose his meningitis.

Following discussions with a specialist paediatric consultant at another hospital he was transferred for specialist treatment.

He was later diagnosed with brain damage as the result of his meningitis. His condition means that Freddie’s brain is unable to rest, which means he does not sleep which causes behavioural problems. Freddie’s hearing has also been affected and his development is delayed.

Following their ordeal Rachel, 35, and Tyler, 31, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care provided to their son by Good Hope Hospital, which is now owned and operated by the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, and to help them access the specialist care and support their son requires.

They have now joined their legal team at Irwin Mitchell in using World Meningitis Day to warn of the dangers of the infection.

It comes after the Hospital Trust responsible for Freddie’s care at the time conducted an investigation and prepared a Serious Incident Report. It found there were delays in Freddie’s care and that disagreements between Freddie’s mum and staff contributed to the “failure to investigate” and diagnose Freddie’s meningitis during his first admission.

The report found there was a “failure to investigate for and make the diagnosis of meningitis” and that “the breakdown in the relationship between Freddie’s mother and the clinical staff meant that concerns about Freddie’s overall condition were not heard.”

Staff should be reminded to “remain professional at all times” and about “the need for maintaining good communication and relationships with parents,” the report said.

Expert Opinion
“Through our work we often see the devastating consequences that families can be left to face because of meningitis. Awareness of the signs and early detection are key to beating it.

“Freddie’s illness has had a profound effect on the family and it is not fully known what long-term impact Freddie’s illness will have on his future.

“Rachel and Tyler have a number of concerns about the care Freddie received and how they felt that their concerns were ignored.

“The Trust’s own report has identified issues regarding delays and how staff dealt with what was obviously an extremely distressing time for the family.

“It is vital that staff uphold the highest standard of professionalism at all times, listen to families and treat patients and their relatives with care and compassion.”
Leanne Leighton, Solicitor

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in handling medical negligence cases 

Rachel said:  “There was a poster in A&E about meningitis in babies and we tried to point this out and raise concerns but we felt like we were just being ignored and were told we were overreacting.

She added: “Even when we took Freddie back to hospital it still seemed like we were going round in circles. One doctor said it couldn’t be meningitis because Freddie didn’t have a rash. Thankfully one doctor thought there was something sinister and arranged antibiotics and further investigations. If it wasn’t for that doctor Freddie may not be here today.

“I am still angry at the way the staff just seemed to be dismissive of us as his parents. I may not be a doctor but I know my son and knew there was something seriously wrong with him.

“We face so many challenges now following Freddie’s illness but despite this he is the most adorable little boy we could wish for.

“We just hope that by speaking out people will be aware of the symptoms of meningitis and how important it is for those affected to receive treatment as soon as possible.”

World Meningitis Day is on Wednesday, 24 April. For more information visit www.meningitisnow.org

Background

Freddie was taken to A&E at Good Hope Hospital just after 11pm on 21 September, 2016, and underwent an initial nurse assessment. Around two-and-a-half hours later he was formally reviewed by an A&E doctor.  The serious incident report said Freddie “should have been seen earlier.”

At around 2.45am the following morning some staff raised concerns that Freddie was about to exceed the four hour waiting time in A&E and wanted him transferred to a ward. Phone calls made by staff on this issue were heard by Freddie’s parents, the report said.

Just before 4am Freddie was transferred to a clinical assessment ward after Rachel requested a second opinion. Following an assessment he was discharged at around 6.30am.

Rachel and Freddie returned to hospital at around 6.30pm because he had been vomiting continuously and appeared to become more lethargic throughout the day. He started intravenous antibiotics at 12.45am on 23 September.

Following morning ward rounds and discussions with a specialist paediatric doctor, it was decided to transfer Freddie to a different hospital so that he could receive more specialist care after he underwent a lumbar puncture.

The results came back at 4.20pm on 23 September and he was transferred at 8.10pm for treatment. Freddie was placed in isolation. He was discharged on 28 September.  

At the time Good Hope Hospital was run by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. It became part of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust last year.