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Apology and assurances from Hospital Trust following baby death from meningitis

Five month old Emmy-Jay died of misdiagnosed pneumococcal meningitis

Sick baby

14 November 2016

The parents of a five month old girl who died after developing pneumococcal meningitis have received an apology and assurances that lessons have been learned from a hospital Trust after it admitted liability into the baby’s death.

Specialist medical negligence solicitor, Nicola Wainwright, obtained the admission of liability alongside the apology for bereaved parents, Paul and Kim.

Their daughter Emmy-Jay first became ill with a cough and cold and then developed a high temperature in November 2012.  

Her parents felt that she was very unwell and they could not bring her temperature down, despite giving her Calpol.  They took her to A&E at the James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth.  

Emmy-Jay’s temperature was noted to be 39 degrees and she had a raised heart rate of 210.  She was seen by an A&E doctor and a paediatrician, but the doctors discharged Emmy-Jay home, diagnosing a viral infection.

Kim specifically asked about meningitis because her younger child had suffered from the disease, but the doctor dismissed the possibility.

At home, Emmy-Jay’s condition deteriorated.  The following day, she remained feverish and started vomiting.  Her parents called the GP, who just diagnosed a “sickness bug” and gave advice for Paul and Kim to administer Calpol and Nurofen.

Emmy-Jay continued to be unwell and by two days later had stopped taking food.  

Her parents took her back to the Accident and Emergency Department at James Paget Hospital.  By this time, she was “in pain, going stiff and moaning”.

This time, the hospital staff realised something was seriously wrong and immediately carried out investigations and gave her antibiotics.  Emmy-Jay was transferred to St Mary’s Hospital in London, but sadly died on 16 November 2012 from pneumococcal meningitis.

Emmy-Jay’s parents contacted the medical negligence team at Leigh Day as they wanted answers and were concerned that the paediatric doctor at James Paget Hospital had not considered that Emmy-Jay may have a serious bacterial infection and had not listened to their concerns when they had told him that their daughter was unwell.  

Lawyers at Leigh Day investigated Emmy-Jay’s case by obtaining her medical records and independent expert evidence from a Consultant Paediatrician.  

The expert was of the view that given Emmy-Jay’s raised temperature and heart rate when she first presented to hospital, the doctor should have considered the possibility of a serious illness and should have admitted her to hospital for observation.

According to the expert, had this been done Emmy-Jay’s deterioration would have been apparent, investigations would have been carried out and Emmy-Jay would have been given antibiotics in time to save her.

Given the expert’s criticisms, Leigh Day sent the James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust a formal Letter of Claim setting out details on the family’s case, including the allegations of negligence against the hospital for their treatment of Emmy-Jay.

In their response, the Trust admitted negligence and following this admission the Trust provided the family with a written apology for the failures in their care, and assured Paul and Kim that lessons had been learnt.  

Kim was particularly keen to ensure that doctors would not so easily dismiss another parent’s concern about their child as she had felt she had been dismissed. It was also agreed that the Trust would pay compensation for their negligence.

Nicola Wainwright, a partner in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day who represented the parents of Emmy-Jay, said:

“Emmy Jay’s is not the first death from meningitis I’ve had to investigate when concerned parents who rightly feel their child is very ill have been sent home from hospital without the possibility of a serious illness being properly excluded.

“Our expert evidence was that had the doctor admitted Emmy-Jay, then she would have received the necessary treatment in time and would have survived. Meningitis is a devastating disease which kills and maims.  It can be treated, but only successfully if the signs and symptoms are recognised and antibiotics given promptly.  

“Whilst Emmy-Jay’s parents knew their daughter was ill, sadly medical staff did not appreciate the signs of developing infection.

“By sharing Emmy-Jay’s story, her parents hope that they will help to prevent other parents having to go through the loss and heartbreak they have had to suffer.”

For more information on meningitis please check the Meningitis Now website.

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