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Hospital trust admits appalling treatment of boy left with life-changing injuries after dismissing severe infection as ‘just a virus’
The mother of a boy who nearly died after being sent away from hospital twice when a life-threatening infection was dismissed as just a virus has urged medics to heed parental concerns.
Emma Holt took her two-year-old son Harley to the GP and two hospitals when he became seriously unwell but it was only due to her persistence, and taking him to a third hospital, that he received life-saving treatment.
Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has admitted* that if errors had not been made by doctors, Harley would have received antibiotics for the group A streptococcal infection he was suffering from, in time to ensure that he made a complete recovery.
Although lucky to survive Harley has been left with life-changing injuries. He has very limited use of his right hand, left foot drop and walking problems. He can’t ride a bike and requires a wheelchair for longer distances. Harley also has an eye squint and extensive scarring. His injuries were completely avoidable if Emma had been listened to. She is now pleading with medics to heed parents who say their child is seriously unwell and that something is not right.
Emma, who lives in Castleton, Rochdale with Harley, now seven, and his twin sister Hayley, said: “Harley was deteriorating rapidly in front of my eyes yet despite me trying to get him help at two hospitals and him screaming in pain I was made to feel like an over-protective mother. Aside from the fact that he nearly died that’s the most concerning thing for me and I don’t want any other families to go through what we did. I knew something wasn’t right and I had that continual nagging feeling which kept driving me to take him back to hospital. I am so thankful that I was persistent and that Harley eventually got treatment but what if I hadn’t been?
“The ironic thing is that when I took him to a third hospital and it was finally accepted how ill he was I was questioned over why I hadn’t brought him sooner.
“I’m so grateful that he survived but another child might not be so lucky so I want to share our story to hopefully raise awareness of the signs of severe illness and the need to listen to parents in a similar situation.”
Sally Leonards, a partner specialising in clinical negligence at JMW Solicitors, who is representing Harley, said Emma’s story is every parent’s worst nightmare. She commented: “Emma’s persistence saved Harley’s life and that is not an acceptable situation when he was seen by doctors at two hospitals who provided a very poor standard of care. Emma did everything right and it’s actually very saddening to see the timeline of mistakes and Harley’s deterioration when a basic level of treatment would have prevented this. There was no excuse for the failures, North Manchester General was not busy at the time Harley was discharged which shows at what a very substandard level it was operating. Hopefully things have now improved in light of Harley’s case but I would appeal to emergency units nationwide to listen to parents, especially when they return day after day with a deteriorating child”
Harley was just two when he became unwell in January 2015 with a high temperature, sore throat, ear ache and a red rash all over his body and neck; all signs of infection. Emma took him to the GP on 14 January and again two days later as the rash had worsened.
Harley was lethargic, his high temperature and poor condition persisted and his breathing was heavy. On this second visit the GP told Emma to take him straight to A&E.
Emma took Harley to the Royal Oldham Hospital as instructed on 16 January and on arrival his temperature was 40.2 degrees centigrade. His blood pressure and heart rate observations were taken but a medical student recorded these incorrectly meaning key indicators of infection were not picked up on and no blood test was done. Harley was misdiagnosed with an upper respiratory virus and sent home.
Overnight at home Harley was restless, thirsty and sweaty. He then slept, unusually, until mid-afternoon. Once awake his legs appeared to be painful when his nappy was changed and he was refusing to stand. His urine smelt very musty. Emma took him to North Manchester General Hospital, having been told by a friend that there was a paediatric A&E at that hospital.
At the hospital Harley clung to Emma and when a doctor was finally able to examine him he screamed in pain when he was touched, particularly on his legs. However despite Harley’s worsening condition and repeated contact with medical professionals over the last three days, when Emma requested a blood test she was told he didn’t need one and he was again sent home. Harley should have been reviewed by a senior paediatrician before discharge but this was not done. Emma repeatedly voiced her concerns about Harley’s condition and how much pain he was in but was ignored and felt as though she was being seen as a nuisance for bringing him back to hospital so soon.
The following day Harley remained unwell at home and by 19 January Emma noticed that his right leg was severely swollen and she rushed him to hospital, this time Fairfield in Bury where it was finally recognised how severely ill he was. Harley’s body was becoming overwhelmed by infection and shutting down. Intravenous antibiotics were started and Harley was put into an induced coma. Doctors managed to stabilise him and he was then transferred to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Manchester Children’s Hospital where doctors battled to save his life. Emma was given the devastating news that he might not survive.
Harley underwent surgery to save his limbs and had part of his hamstring removed from his right leg and skin grafts taken from both legs. After four weeks in intensive care Harley was moved to the Burns and Plastics Ward where he remained until 17 April 2015.
Following Harley’s poor treatment Pennine Acute produced its own investigation report which was highly critical of the care provided. Harlet
*Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has admitted that the care provided to Harley on 17 January 2015 at North Manchester General Hospital was negligent and that if antibiotics had been given on 18 January he would have avoided all injury. It does not admit that there was any negligent care at the Royal Oldham Hospital on 16 January despite JMW’s evidence to the contrary. The trust has said that it plans to send a letter of apology to Harley and Emma.
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Note to Editors
JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.
JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading clinical negligence lawyer, Eddie Jones. For more than a decade he and his team have advised and represented thousands of victims of clinical negligence, and their relatives, and have obtained over £100 million in compensation for their clients, as well as providing the answers as to why their medical treatment has gone wrong.