A SCHOOLGIRL suffering from appendicitis died after medics mistakenly decided she had a stomach bug and sent her home from hospital, an inquest heard.

Five-year-old Elspeth Moore told doctors her tummy "felt like it was on fire" but her parents were told she simply had a viral infection.

They took her home without being given advice on how to monitor her symptoms - and she died in her bed several days later as her father lay next to her.

Despite being diagnosed as having viral gastroenteritis, she was actually suffering from appendicitis which developed into peritonitis and sepsis, the inquest heard.

Elspeth, of Highfield Avenue, Lymington, was sent home from school on July 2 last year following a bout of diarrhoea.

Her GP said she was dehydrated and should be put on an IV drip but doctors at Southampton Children’s Hospital decided instead to carry out a series of observations, the inquest heard.

They set up a "fluid challenge" whereby her parents gave her 5ml of water every five minutes for two hours to see if she could ‘keep it down’.

Elspeth’s parents asked if they could continue the fluid challenge at home but were unaware of the need for more observations to rule out sepsis and appendicitis.

They were allowed to leave without a discharge letter, and were given only verbal advice by the doctor, with nothing in writing to tell them what symptoms to look out for, the inquest heard.

Elspeth died a few days later as high fever and diarrhoea gave way to vomiting.

Speaking at Winchester Coroner’s Court, her father, systems analyst Steven Moore, said he asked if it would be all right to continue giving her fluid at home he was told staff were "happy" for her to be discharged.

“We weren’t given specific advice on when to come back or things to look out for," he said.

Elspeth seemed a bit better the next day but by July 5 her condition was deteriorating.

Mr Moore said he went into her room at 11pm and lay down on the floor beside her, adding: "Five or ten minutes later I heard her making a weird noise, like something was catching in her throat.

“I sat her up, at which point her head flopped back and her eyes rolled up.”

Mr and Mrs Moore called an ambulance but their daughter was pronounced dead just after her arrival at Southampton General Hospital.

A&E doctor Nicola Trevelyan, who was on call the night Elspeth died, and head of nursing Louisa Green, said lessons had been learned.

Changes had been made to ensure paperwork and leaflets were made available to parents taking their children out of hospital, with a new text-messaging system in place to link parents to online advice, the inquest was told.

Recording a death by natural causes, senior coroner Grahame Short said gastroenteritis was not an unreasonable diagnosis as Elspeth had an unusually positioned appendix.

However, he said doctors could have advised the parents better.

“There was insufficient advice given on how to look after Elspeth at home and most importantly what to look out for," he said.