Last week, the results of an investigation into the death of a 3 year old Devonshire boy revealed ‘catastrophic’ failings on the part of the NHS out-of-hours service and other local care providers. Sam Morrish passed away from septic shock in December 2010 after developing what was initially thought to be a chest infection. Sam’s mother took him to the GP and was told that the little boy did not have an infection. By the following morning Sam’s condition had deteriorated and so Mrs Morrish contacted GP surgery again. She explained that Sam was constantly thirsty and that she had put in him into a nappy as he was too weak to use the toilet. The GP failed to ask Mrs Morrish if the nappy was dry which would have crucially indicated that Sam had kidney problems.
Later that evening Sam began to vomit and his parents noticed that it contained blood. Concerned, they called NHS Direct. The nurse handling the call mis-recorded information about Sam’s condition and failed to mark the call as an emergency. Mrs Morrish was told that someone would call her back but she was so anxious about her sons condition that she called her local our of hours GP service. The call handler advised that Sam should be taken to a local treatment centre instead of to A&E. Mrs Morrish questioned this advice but was assured that the treatment centre was the correct place for her son. It was later discovered that the call handler who took Mrs Morrish’s call was unqualified.
At the treatment centre Sam was placed in a queue instead of being immediately sent to see a doctor. Distressed at having to wait, Mrs Morrish sought the help of a passing nurse who finally raised the alarm over how ill Sam actually was. He was quickly rushed to Torbay hospital where antibiotics were prescribed to treat his now serious condition. Shockingly, Sam was not administered the antibiotics until 3 hours after the prescription was made but unfortunately by this point a bacterial infection had set in and Sam passed away from septic shock.
Devastated by their loss, Mr and Mrs Morrish wanted answers to their questions over the delays and mistakes made in the treatment of their child. A series of investigations were made but according to the Patient’s Association who have supported the family throughout the complaints process, these failed ‘to find any clear answers or hold those responsible to account’. In 2012 Mr and Mrs Morrish escalated their complaint to the NHS Ombudsman. Dissatisfied with several draft reports as to what had happened in the days and hours leading up to Sam’s death, they describe the complaint handling body as a ‘closed and unaccountable’ service that seeks to protect the assets and reputation of the NHS.
Finally in September 2013, Mr and Mrs Morrish met with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to discuss the failings multiple failings they encountered both in Sam’s care and in the investigations that followed. Concerns have now been raised over the quality of care delivered through NHS out-of-hours services with Ministers pledging to improve the quality of the service provided in order to safeguard vulnerable patients like Sam.