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Group A Strep – Tragedy of the Avoidable Death of a Little Girl

Posted on 29th April 2024 in Medical Negligence

Posted by

Helena Campbell

Associate & Chartered Legal Executive
Group A Strep – Tragedy of the Avoidable Death of a Little Girl

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, towards the end of 2022 and into 2023, the UK saw a significant increase in invasive Group A Strep infections. This was widely reported in the press, and the concerns in relation to the spike in reported cases were raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

I was saddened to read the devastating story of the 5-year-old little girl, Meha Carneiro, who died from Group Strep A when NHS staff failed to recognise the seriousness of her condition.

Meha died on 5 December 2022, when the increase in Group A Strep cases was regularly reported in the media and warnings shared by WHO, and should have been at the forefront of the minds of all A&E staff.

A coroner found that negligence contributed to Meha’s death. Tragically, she would have survived had she received better care. As a parent myself, it is unimaginable how Meha’s parents can begin to come to terms with such tragic loss of their little girl, also in the knowledge that her death was avoidable. 

Assistant coroner, Dr Elizabeth Didcock, published a report calling on Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to take action to prevent future deaths following Meha’s death. 

Having recently been instructed by the parents of a little boy who lost his life to Group A Strep and Sepsis, I was struck by the similarities. My client’s little boy attended an acute care setting with a series of red flag symptoms, but after initial partial observations were taken in triage, further steps were not taken to monitor or observe him. His condition rapidly deteriorated, and he died in his mum’s arms. 

His mum explained to me:

“It is so distressing to read that hospital trusts are not able to sufficiently recognise symptoms of Strep A and sepsis, despite the well documented rise in cases of such bacterial infections.

Our little boy was presented to medical professionals in a similar state as Meha, with vomiting, a high temperature and cold/flu like symptoms. In addition, we reported that he had been sleepier than normal and exhibited a worsening rash.

These red flags were missed by staff inadequately trained in paediatric care and, unfortunately, in our little boy’s case, it was too late to help when his care was finally escalated. 

We urge parents to familiarise themselves with the signs of Strep A infections and sepsis. If there is any doubt, check it out and get a second opinion.”

The inquest heard that, similarly to my client’s little boy, Meha presented with a fever, vomiting symptoms, a cough and abdominal pain. She was taken to hospital but suffered a cardiac arrest and died 5 ½ hours later.

The enquiry confirmed that there were insufficient trained paediatric nurses on duty, and there was a lack of recognition of how unwell Meha was on being admitted. She was not provided with intravenous fluids or antibiotics, as should have been provided. 

In the BBC article Dr Didcock’s findings revealed:

“The lack of repeated observations, the lack of review of the oral fluid challenge, the lack of senior review, leading to the lack of recognition of the seriousness of her condition, all probably made a more than minimal, negligible or trivial contribution to (Meha's) death.

"Had intravenous fluids and antibiotics been provided in the morning, she would on balance have survived."

Concerns about the "insufficient and ineffective" handover between medical staff have also been raised by Dr Didcock.

The Trust’s Director, Dr David Selwyn, pass on “unreserved apologies” to the family.

This comes as another BBC News Article explained how a Hospital Trust Director from the same Hospital Trust, has resigned after missing red flags of sepsis in a child and fast- tracked a colleague through the emergency care system: Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust director resigns after suspension - BBC News

The BBC explained that there was a “pattern of dishonesty” from Mr David Ainsworth, which was “not limited to a single occasion”. The decisions made by Mr Ainsworth were serious and put patients at a direct risk of harm.

A hearing was held, in which the panel concluded that in January 2019, Mr Ainsworth failed to refer a child with sepsis, referred to as Patient A, instead providing the wrong information to the patient's mother and sent them to a pharmacy.

Mr Ainsworth falsely reported that Patient A's rash "did fade" and that the patient's mother declined a review, the panel added.

In September 2019, the panel said Mr Ainsworth incorrectly interpreted the blood test results of another patient, asking them to attend a repeat blood test "when they should have been asked to go to A&E immediately".

It is crucial that parent’s and family members trust their instincts and are aware of the signs and symptoms of infections such as Group A Strep, which can lead to life threatening conditions such as sepsis. The introduction of Martha’s Rule also now allows patients to seek a second opinion where they can see that a condition is deteriorating.

How can Tozers help?

If you or a family member have been affected by medical negligence, contact our specialist medical negligence lawyers, we will help you to recover appropriate compensation and secure your future. 

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