Inquest Into the Death of a Toddler | News | Howells Solicitors
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Inquest Into the Death of a Toddler Due to Dismissed Symptoms From Doctors

Howells Solicitors

25 May, 2023

Jenna Kisala Medical Negligence Senior Solicitor 0114 249 6754

Howells Solicitors represented James Philliskirk and his family at Sheffield Coroner’s Court in an inquest investigating neglect from Sheffield Children Hospital staff.

Sixteen-month-old James died soon after being taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital twice, after hospital doctors ignored his parents’ worries that James was suffering from a serious illness and repeatedly dismissed his symptoms as chicken pox. The symptoms included skin legions, lethargy, food refusal, groaning noises and a high fever of 38.5c.

On Thursday 12th May 2022 James was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital on the instructions of his GP. But during both visits to the hospital that day, doctors at the hospital insisted the youngster was only suffering from chicken pox, regardless of the fact he had suffered from the illness two weeks previous.

The family’s GP sent his concerns to the hospital via a patient summary letter about the possibility of Scarlet Fever, this was read by hospital staff, but concerns dismissed In addition to this, the 111 call handler concerns with regards the groaning noise James were again dismissed by Sheffield Children Hospital staff.

James’s condition failed to improve at home and 32 hours later he was found unresponsive during the early hours by his father. James was declared deceased on Saturday 14th May 2022 at 2.08am at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Instead of chicken pox James was actually fighting Sepsis brought on by a severe Group A Strep skin infection, the inquest was told.

Following a Serious Investigation by Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Trust, their report recognised failings in the care provided to James and his family.  Their investigation found that the GP did not access the referral pathway due the proximity of the GP surgery and Sheffield Children’s Hospital. 

The report also found that Emergency Department guidelines were not followed and no review by senior medical staff was carried out.

The inquest was told that there was no documentation that the presumed diagnosis of chicken pox was unlikely, as it was unlikely that a repeat chicken pox infection would happen so soon after. 

Furthermore, there was no record of consideration of Strep A infection after chicken pox and the large skin lesion on the wrist from the previous bout of chicken pox was not recorded.

The Philliskirk family, speaking about their tragic loss, said “James was our 16-month-old son.  He was a fun, happy, cheeky, and active little boy.  He was a much-loved son, brother, grandson, nephew cousin and friend.  James managed to fit a lot into his short life, despite Covid-19 restrictions.  He was an extremely special little boy who is absolutely adored by his family. 

“There are no words to describe how much our little boy meant to us, how much joy he brought to us and those around us and how he still is profoundly loved by us all.  We will forever cherish the happy and fond memories that we created with him.”

The jury recorded a narrative verdict from the inquest, which finished on the 27th of April, which read: “Following a number of assessments in hospital James was misdiagnosed and was not provided with treatment in line with departmental guidance. He developed sepsis and died at home on 13 May 2022. His death was contributed to by neglect.”

Following the 4 day inquest Assistant Coroner Abigail Combes has completed a Prevention of Future Death (PFD) Report noting 6 actions for Sheffield Children’s Hospital to complete, and provide an action plan to this affect within the next two months.

Senior Medical Negligence Solicitor from Howells Solicitors, Jenna Kisala, said “This was a tragic turn of events, and our thoughts are with the Philliskirk family and other families we have helped in the past..  

“We hope that the Serious Investigation report, the conclusions of the inquest and the PFD report can allow procedures to be reviewed and developed in children’s hospitals and that lines of communication between medical staff can be improved to not allow a tragedy like this to happen again.”

The Philliskirk family are assisting all organisations and services who were involved with James in making improvements for future child deaths. The Philliskirk family are organising 16 things in James’ memory as he was 16 months old when he died.  These include donations to 4Louis charity who provide memory boxes for parents/carers of babies and children who have died.  There is a bright orange fish plaque at The Deep in Hull and a bench in Bole Hill Park which have been crowd funded by friends and family. Also, an outdoor climbing frame has been installed in his memory at Bole Hill Nursery.

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