Toddler died after inadequate treatment at QA Hospital, says coroner

Anabelle Shepherd
Anabelle Shepherd
Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham

Health trust that runs Queen Alexandra Hospital is rated as above national average for the environment it provides for patients

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Doctors treating a toddler who died from a serious infection on Christmas Day failed to adequately recognise her vulnerable condition, a coroner has ruled.

Anabelle Shepherd, who had rare, genetic condition Hurler syndrome, was admitted to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham with lethargy, four months after a bone marrow transplant.

The 22-month-old received treatment but her condition worsened.

Anabelle was transferred to intensive care at Southampton General Hospital two days later where she later died.

Her dad Lee told an inuest he and wife Leanne believe their daughter was ‘let down at the final hurdle’ due to failings by QA staff.

Mr and Mrs Shepherd, of Bath Road, Southsea, have said an incorrect diagnosis of gastroenteritis, delayed blood tests and initial treatment with oral instead of intravenous antibiotics at the hospital meant their daughter’s condition deteriorated.

QA has said it has changed procedures for dealing with similar patients since Annabelle’s death.

Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman recorded a narrative verdict into Anabelle’s death.

He said: ‘[Anabelle’s] treatment at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth where she presented as unwell on December 23 2012 did not give adequate recognition to her vulnerable clinical status.’

The inquest has heard Anabelle was improving under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London where she had undergone a bone marrow transplant in August last year.

She was receiving specialist drugs to suppress her immune system after the transplant which left her at risk of infection.

Anabelle was admitted to QA on December 23 after becoming lethargic and was prescribed oral antibiotics.

But she vomited overnight and it was decided tests would be carried out following discussions between a consultant paediatrician and GOSH.

Anabelle’s condition deteriorated further and after another discussion with GOSH she was given intravenous antibiotics at about midnight on Christmas Eve.

The toddler later suffered a seizure at was transferred to Southampton General Hospital.

But despite the best efforts of paediatric intensive care staff Annabelle died at 2:40pm on Christmas Day.

A post-mortem examination could not conclude whether a bacterial or viral infection caused Anabelle’s death.

Speaking after the inquest, dad Lee, 42, said: ‘[Anabelle] went through so much in relation to the diagnosis, the bone marrow transplant, the chemotherapy - she was pretty much let down at the final hurdle.

‘Those last two days have overshadowed a lot of happy memories of her.’

Mum Leanne, 38, said: ‘Hurlers is horrific. Anabelle was quite lucky in that it didn’t seem to have got her too much.

‘We had two donors to choose from and the transplant went well. We never anticipated the end being as it was.’

John White, a clinical negligence specialist from Blake Lapthorn solicitors who represented the family, said: ‘There was an underestimation of Anabelle’s condition.’

He added: ‘I think the doctors themselves are clearly very knowledgeable but in this case systems fell down.’

Hurler syndrome is a rare, genetic condition affecting one in 117,000 children.

Patients with the condition are missing an enzyme.

Without treatment the condition leads to the body’s tissues being damaged due to an accumulation of complex sugars.

Treatment involves a bone marrow transplant so that the new marrow can make the missing enzyme.