A mother has reacted with anger after a coroner ruled that the death of her baby son could not have been prevented – despite a series of failings by health workers.
Katie Corry, 22, said “justice had not been done” after the two-week inquest into son Leo Radcliffe’s death concluded that he died of natural causes after contracting meningitis.
Miss Corry and her partner Kaine Radcliffe, 25, called NHS Direct after their five-month-old developed a fever and was struggling to breathe late in the evening of June 3, 2010.
Despite speaking to two NHS Direct advisers, who passed the call to an out-of-hours GP working for private company Go To Doc, their pleas for help were re-classified as non-urgent.
The call was then passed on to another out-of-hours GP at Go To Doc, Dr Jason Tahghighi, who failed to carry out a night call to the sick baby. Dr Tahghighi has since been suspended by the General Medical Council.
The couple gave up waiting and at 4.10am the following morning dialled 999. Leo was rushed to Royal Oldham Hospital where medics tried to revive the tot. He died at 5.25pm that afternoon.
Manchester coroner Nigel Meadows ruled last Thursday (12 March) that nothing could have been done to save his life.
But the mother-of-two, of Derker, Oldham, said: “I’m bitterly disappointed with the inquest ruling. I don’t understand how the coroner can hear so much evidence of failings and still come to the conclusion that Leo’s death could not have been prevented.
“I knew there had been some serious failings in Leo’s case but I had no idea just how bad it had been until this inquest. We were let down from start to finish. It’s shocking.
“Hearing the evidence that emerged during the inquest made me feel so angry. In my mind, Leo’s death was preventable.”
The inquest was told that a non medically trained NHS Direct call handler, who received the first call at 11.45pm, failed to realise the seriousness of Leo’s condition.
Miss Corry said: “I found out at the inquest that because I’d described Leo’s breathing as ‘rapid’ rather than ‘severe’ the call hadn’t been flagged as urgent.
“How can so much importance be put on one word? We’re talking about the health of a baby. I even put Leo to the phone so they could hear how quickly he was breathing. I said he’s boiling hot, his breathing is rapid do I need to take him to hospital? I can’t believe that the call handler failed to realise how serious this was.”
The inquest heard that the second call handler from NHS Direct failed to follow the breathing telephone triage algorithm, which would have led to an attendance at Accident and Emergency.
Miss Corry has now instructed law firm Slater and Gordon to pursue legal action against those whose failings caused or contributed to Leo’s death.
She added: “We’ve waited years for this hearing and I feel like I haven’t got justice for Leo and that’s why we’re launching a civil action. We want to make sure no other family has to suffer like we have.
“Leo’s death left us feeling empty, like there’s a hole in our family. I feel, and always will feel, like a mother of three, not a mother of two. Leo will always be with us.”
Slater and Gordon Clinical Negligence Lawyer Lindsay Holt said: “The death of a child is an unbearable tragedy, but to lose a baby in these circumstances has added to Leo’s family’s grief.
“They believe that his death could have been prevented and that they were repeatedly failed as they tried to get the medical help Leo desperately needed.
“We have expert opinion that, on the balance of probabilities, had Leo been transferred to hospital by 1am or even later his life would have been saved.
“His family is determined that lessons are learnt from this case and no one else has to endure a similar tragedy.”
Slater and Gordon Lawyers have over 1,450 staff and 18 offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Merseyside, Bristol, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield, Derby, Cambridge and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire and in Hull, Yorkshire.