Baby died two days after hospital visit

A HOSPITAL has defended its decision to allow a baby to go home just two days before the infant died.Seven-week-old Thomas Williams died at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, on April 7 after he developed pneumonia, an illness which failed to show up on a scan carried out shortly before his death.

A HOSPITAL has defended its decision to allow a baby to go home just two days before the infant died.

Seven-week-old Thomas Williams died at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, on April 7 after he developed pneumonia, an illness which failed to show up on a scan carried out shortly before his death.

An inquest yesterday heard the baby had undergone an echocardiogram at the hospital, which was cleared of any negligence, just two days before his death.

Dr Martina Noone , consultant paediatrician who carried out the heart scan, said she felt there was no need to admit Thomas after looking at the results and considering the reaction of his parents, Sarah and David Williams, whose solicitors last night said they were considering their options over possible civil action.


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Dr Noone said: "I feel I have a very low threshold if parents of young babies are concerned and want their child admitted.

"Mrs Williams has three other children and is a very experienced mother and I didn't get the feeling she was worried and that she would like me to admit Thomas there and then."

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And fellow consultant paediatrician at the hospital Dr Ian Evans added: "Sometimes parental concern can influence what we are doing and whether we admit a child for reassurance.

"Parents' level of concern does influence our course of action but nevertheless we cannot admit every child whose parents are worried.

"An infection like Thomas's could mean a patient changes as rapidly as appearing healthy one day and catching the infection 24 hours later."

In a written statement, Mrs Williams said she had attended Guys Hospital during her pregnancy after concerns over possible heart problems in her unborn child were first raised.

But tests at the London hospital suggested there were no problems although a follow-up scan was requested by doctors.

Thomas was born on February 21 at the West Suffolk, weighing 7lbs 4ozs, and allowed home the next day.

By the time Thomas returned to West Suffolk Hospital for his echocardiogram on April 5, Mrs Williams said she had become increasingly concerned about her son's health as he had been suffering from a "sticky eye", cold-like symptoms and a cough for several weeks.

She said she was relieved after the scan although concerned that Dr Noone had not examined Thomas' heart with a stethoscope – something the paediatrician was unable to remember doing.

As Mrs Williams, who was at the inquest with her husband, choked back tears, the inquest heard of the minutes the parents found their son had stopped breathing.

The grieving mother's statement read: "I was downstairs when I heard my husband shouting and crying. I went upstairs and Thomas was not breathing.

"I attempted CPR and Thomas was taken to West Suffolk Hospital where we were told he had died."

The parents, who live at Faiers Close, Bury, have since met with hospital chiefs to talk through the case but during yesterday's inquest, they said they were still left with a number of unanswered questions.

Dr Neil Sebire , consultant paediatric pathologist at Great Ormond Street, who carried out a post mortem, said examinations of the baby's lungs showed evidence of pneumonia. The medical cause of death was lower respiratory tract infection .

In giving a verdict of death by natural causes, Greater Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean said: "In these circumstances, a lot of people are left feeling that they could have done more – it is a natural reaction.

"But it is very difficult to see if it would have made any difference if Thomas had gone to hospital any earlier.

"If he had been admitted when he had the echocardiogram, the same tragedy could have still happened and it does seem there was no gross failing in care on the part of the hospital."

In a statement made after the inquest, a hospital spokesman said: "The staff at the hospital would like to extend their sincere sympathies to the parents and family of Thomas Williams.

"On April 5, Thomas attended an outpatient clinic where he was given an echocardiogram and was examined by a consultant.

"At that time he appeared to be unwell but there was no indication that he had pneumonia. We are confident the coroner has reached the right verdict in this case and that all evidence was thoroughly considered."

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