DOCTORS at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital have admitted failures in the care of a 16-year-old girl who died of meningitis.
They have conceded that a lumbar puncture procedure – which caused the catastrophic brain damage which killed Connie Moore – should not have been carried out “with hindsight”.
And they have admitted that “the earlier you give antibiotics the better” after an inquest into her death heard there was a delay of four hours before she received the medication.
Dr Charles Gordon said the decision to carry out the lumbar puncture was taken without having Connie’s full notes, which would have revealed she was suffering from increased pressure on the brain and that the procedure should not be performed.
Instead they relied on a CT scan, which appeared normal, and Dr Gordon said: “We gave far too much importance to the CT scan and that was wrong. We interpreted the information we had the wrong way.”
Fellow consultant Dr Michelle Scott said “with hindsight” she would not have agreed to a lumbar puncture being carried out.
Connie, a pupil of Bournemouth School for Girls, died in January after being admitted to hospital suffering with a number of symptoms including a headache, high blood pressure and a high temperature.
She was initially treated at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital before being transferred to Southampton General Hospital where she died.
Her family has since raised a number of concerns about her care and a serious incident review has been carried out at the Royal Bournemouth.
Associate Medical Director Dr Sean Weaver told the Southampton inquest how the hospital was sorry for Connie’s death and said lessons had been learned as a result of it with more education and training in place as well as the introduction of new policies.
Coroner Keith Wiseman heard Connie was treated as an adult because she was 16 and that her mother was not consulted about her treatment, a policy he criticised when delivering his narrative verdict.
He said: “A differential diagnosis of meningitis was made at a very early stage but there was a failure to give antibiotics at all for a four hour period after admission in breach of NICE Guidelines which indicate that they should be given within one hour of admission where meningitis is suspected.”
He said drugs directed specifically at meningitis were not given for nearly six hours by which time Connie had “significantly deteriorated and required emergency treatment”.
The hospital was strongly criticised in a Care Quality Commission report following an inspection last year, which noted that A&E and medical care services did not always follow clinical guidelines, and that there was a need for “greater external scrutiny” of mortality rates.
The report stated: “Some patients were still not receiving the care they needed in a timely manner, and there was an ongoing high risk of this continuing.”
In February the hospital’s board of directors heard measures have been put in place to address criticisms, including recruiting more student nurses and reducing bed occupancy.
CHARITY Meningitis Now said antibiotics given early on to patients in suspected meningitis cases substantially improved their survival chances.
“If doctors suspect meningitis then usually antibiotics will be given as soon as possible, before further tests are carried out,” said helpline manager Claire Donovan.
She said doctors might hesitate to administer antibiotics due to the risk of side effects, and the wider healthcare consequences of increasing resistance to the drugs. Around ten per cent of meningitis cases in the UK result in death, and many others in mental and physical disability.