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A child's symptoms are ignored, he dies as a result

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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An inquest last month heard that Harry Connolly, aged just 19 months, was a “victim of basic errors by medics”. These errors cost Harry his life, he died in April 2011. A post-mortem examination revealed he died of dehydration and acute kidney failure after suffering from an inflammation of the colon, which had not been spotted on a number of occasions.

Harry was suffering from severe diarrhoea and vomiting, in April last year and his parents took him to see his GP. His GP in turn suggested to his parents that they should take him to Northampton General Hospital. On admission at the Hospital, Harry was examined by a paediatrician and it was recommended that he should take dioralyte a rehydration treatment, although he was not diagnosed with dehydration but wrongly diagnosed with a stomach complaint.

The next day Harry was discharged but under the provision that he had ‘48-hour open access’ to the children’s ward, which meant that his parents could bring him back at any time during this period. Harry’s Mother, Mrs Connolly did return with him, but again she was dismissed and his dehydration went undiagnosed.

In the following days it was clear to Harry’s grandmother that his health was deteriorating and that he displayed ‘sunken eyes’, she therefore contacted the hospital but Harry’s notes could not be located and his grandmother was told that he would have to again visit Accident and Emergency or go through his GP out-of-hours service. Harry attended the latter and in this instance was diagnosed with a virus, and his parents were told that he was not dehydrated.

Harry’s parents believed him to be dehydrated and gave him drinks to try and help him, however as discussed in the recent inquest, at this stage Harry required an IV drip to rehydrate him. The following evening Harry died of dehydration and acute kidney failure.

The inquest highlighted that the doctors who saw Harry were too quick to dismiss his problems, illustrating that if basic tests had been completed he would have been correctly diagnosed and his life spared.

Mrs Connolly has commented that the worse part of the ordeal is dealing with the hindsight that if things had been done differently, Harry would still be alive.

Mr and Mrs Connolly are bringing a claim against Northampton General Hospital, and the claim is ongoing. The hospital have apologised and said that changes have been made.

By clinical negligence expert, Anne Marie Cassidy