Meningitis youngster refused bed

TWO investigations are under way today at Ipswich Hospital and NHS Suffolk after a catalogue of errors left a child seriously ill.

Rebecca Lefort

TWO investigations are under way today at Ipswich Hospital and NHS Suffolk after a catalogue of errors left a child seriously ill.

Despite being diagnosed with viral meningitis at the Riverside Clinic in Ipswich, 11-year-old Colette Smith, was refused admission to Ipswich Hospital because of a lack of beds and because the prognosis was made by a nurse practitioner and not a doctor.

But when the youngster was later seen by an on-call GP at the same clinic in Landseer Road he missed the symptoms and sent her home, only for her to be rushed back to Ipswich Hospital's A&E department the following day where she was treated for meningitis.


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Collette's mother Toni Wright of Gonville Close, Woodbridge, has criticised the Riverside Clinic and Ipswich Hospital, and a health campaigner has warned of the consequences of refusing to listen to highly-qualified nurses.

Mrs Wright said: "The nurse practitioner gave her a really good check over, he was really thorough and very good.

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"He rang Ipswich Hospital but they wouldn't admit her. They told him they were too busy and didn't have any beds and they wouldn't accept a referral that wasn't from a doctor."

By the time Farlingaye High School pupil Colette saw her own GP the following day her condition had deteriorated so much he called an ambulance to take her to hospital where she remained in the children's high dependency unit for more than 24 hours. Collette has now fully recovered.

Mrs Wright said: "The service just isn't good enough. You believe what doctors say so I thought she would be okay, but he was wrong. It does worry me very much and I am angry.

"What is the point of having a nurse practitioner if people are not going to listen to them?"

Both Ipswich Hospital and Take Care Now (TCN) who provide the GP out of hours service have pledged to fully investigate what went wrong.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital , said: "Something exceptional has happened and we will explore all the factors and issues."

A spokesman for TCN said: "TCN wishes to reassure patients that it takes quality of care very seriously.

"The doctors and nurses who work for TCN follow national clinical guidance.

"However it would be inappropriate to make any further comment until an investigation has been carried out."

Health campaigner's view:-

PRUE Rush, spokeswoman for the former Ipswich Hospital public and patient involvement forum, said she was horrified that the hospital had refused to admit Colette because the diagnosis did not come from a doctor.

She said: "This is very disturbing because there is a great move to train nurses up to be nurse practitioners so either we respect the diagnosis or there is no point having them.

"It beggars belief that someone could be so arrogantly dismissive and very worrying for people who use out of hours care.

"The doctors at Ipswich Hospital may have been under the strain of knowing no beds were available but they have no right to take that risk with a patient's life.

"It completely undermines the whole out of hours regime and you might as well close the clinics.”

Timeline:-

December 17

- 4pm - Colette returns from school unwell and goes to bed

- 9pm - Mrs Wright rings her GP and gets put through to the out of hours service run by Take Care Now (TCN) and is told to call back in an hour

- 10pm - She calls back and is told to bring Colette to the Riverside Clinic in Ipswich at 10.30pm

- 10.30pm - Colette is seen by a nurse practitioner at the Riverside Clinic for about 20 minutes. He suspects viral meningitis and calls Ipswich Hospital but is told Colette cannot be admitted because of a lack of beds and the fact he is not a doctor

- 11pm - Colette and Mrs Wright go to stay in Kesgrave with relatives after being told they will need to wait until midnight to see a GP. When she did see the GP she is told she has a virus and should go home.

- December 18 - 2pm - After spending the day in bed Colette's condition is worsening so Mrs Wright takes her to the family's GP who orders an ambulance and gives her antibiotics

- 3pm - Colette arrives in Ipswich Hospital's Accident and Emergency department in a very unstable condition. She spends 24-hours in the high dependency unit and four days in the hospital before she can return home

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