The devastated parents of a one-year-old boy who died of sepsis have criticised his hospital care as he was left unmonitored for six hours as his condition worsened and was not given antibiotics quickly enough to save him.
Layton Boys-Hope was rushed to Sunderland Royal Hospital by his worried parents Dave and Nichol after he became breathless and was feverish on February 8th, 2015.
He had been making a good recovery from a bout of chicken pox when he suddenly became ill at home. He was rushed to hospital by his parents and admitted with a temperature of 39.9°C, and his left foot ‘purple’ in colour.
Having been admitted at 3.13pm, Layton was then reviewed by a doctor at 3.45pm, at which time an enlargement of his liver was recorded and the possibility of a bacterial infection noted.
However, despite this, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, admitted no further observations were then made to assess Layton’s condition over the following six hours.
Doctors had noted the discolouration in Layton’s foot but were not in agreement over its cause. It was dismissed as having been caused by either his nappy being too tight or having slept on his leg.
Layton was given Calpol to reduce his temperature while investigations were carried out, but blood tests were not assessed until three and a half hours after his admission, when a low white blood cell count was discovered.
Hudgell Solicitors led a legal case against the hospital Trust on behalf of Layton’s parents, and said these results should have triggered an immediate decision to administer antibiotics to help fight infection.
However, doctors instead decided to carry out further tests, including an x-ray and tests for liver function.
Layton was finally admitted to a ward at 9pm and given antibiotics at 11.25pm – more than eight hours after he was first seen.
However, by this stage his condition had rapidly declined, his oxygen levels dropped and his heartbeat had almost come to a stop. He was transferred to theatre but died after 30 minutes of CPR proved unable to save him.
As part of legal action against the Trust, solicitor Tasmin White alleged – with independent medical expert backing – that had antibiotics been given at any time before 6.45pm (up to three and a half hours after admission), Layton would have survived.
Layton’s cause of death was recorded as overwhelming sepsis (Group A Streptococcus Pyogenes) caused by chicken pox.
Layton’s parents Dave and Nichol have now agreed a damages settlement with the hospital Trust following their legal case.
The Trust admitted earlier treatment with antibiotics would have, in the balance of probabilities, saved their boy’s life and that it had breached its duty of care by failing to carry out observations or assessments to establish Layton’s clinical condition for six hours.
However, it denied liability for Layton’s death.
‘We thought the hospital was the best place for Layton, but they let him down’
Whilst still trying to come to terms with their loss as a family, Dave and Nichol, who have six other children, say they want others to be aware of how serious sepsis can be, how quickly it can kill, and the need for doctors to act speedily.
Dave, 38, an optical lab technician, said: “All of us are total shadows of our former selves after losing Layton and it makes it even harder to accept or understand when you know he was let down.
“The hospital failed to carry out observations and there were delays in giving him antibiotics which we have been told since would have saved him.
“Whatever we do and wherever we go, we’ll always be thinking ‘what if?’ If things had been different, Layton would still be here and that’s the hardest part of it all.
“No parent should have to go through that and deal with that. We thought he was in the best place but, in my eyes, they didn’t do everything they should have done. We can’t ever accept that.”
Solicitor says lack of observations and urgency was ‘inexcusable’
Solicitor Tasmin White said the case had highlighted the need for hospitals to ‘consider sepsis at an early stage and take no risks, especially with young children.’
She alleged that the hospital had failed to follow national guidelines in accordance with sepsis protocols, and in relation to a child who presented with a fever three days after the onset of a chicken pox rash.
“This is a tragic case, and it is particularly upsetting and distressing as from a parenting point of view, Dave and Nichol did everything they could. They took him to hospital as soon as they felt his condition was worsening and worrying,” she said.
“For the hospital to then approach his care with such a lack of urgency and detail, failing to carry out observations for six hours and not taking more decisive action, was inexcusable.
“Layton’s very high temperature, rapid breathing and his discoloured leg were all red flag warnings that something adverse was happening and should have led to a decisive conclusion that an infection was present.
“There were certainly enough symptoms to warrant the early administration of antibiotics – treatment which it has accepted could have saved Layton’s life.
“This tragic case highlights that a failure to consider sepsis early, particularly in young children suffering unexplained symptoms and with high temperatures, can prove fatal. Sepsis must be more widely considered at an early stage.
“Sometimes there is no time for further testing as each minute and hour that passes is a greater risk.”
Father recalls moment family’s ‘world started falling apart’
Dave said he will never forget the devastating hours leading up to his son’s death on February 9, 2015, and would not like to think of any other parent experiencing the same, avoidable loss.
He said: “We were shouting ‘come on Layton, you can do it son’. They worked on him for about 30 minutes before they made the decision to stop and they asked us if we wanted to be there. They had stopped all the machines, so we weren’t faced with beeping noises and they declared he had passed away just before 1am.
“It was horrible. I remember being in the theatre when they stopped working on him and my legs went from under me. I fell on the floor crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t take in what had just happened. I wanted the ground to swallow us up and I wanted them to replace Layton with me.
Dave and Nichol have had two more children since Layton died, but say the lasting impact of his death continues to affect the whole family.
“The poor kids were destroyed,” said Dave.
“My son, James, totally changed because he used to come home from nursery and play with Layton. If any of the little ones have an accident and we need to take them to the hospital, it’s really difficult for us. We know it’s the right thing to do, but it’s so hard to walk through that door knowing we lost our son there.
“I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and PTSD and it still affects us all today. Nichol and I slept in the living room for months after Layton died because we couldn’t face going into the bedroom where his cot was. But when our son, Jenson, was born, we went back in because we needed to regain some kind of normality.
“It’s very hard. We try not to think about that part of our lives, but we always talk about Layton.
“We called Layton our little monkey because he was a proper cheeky monkey. He was so funny with the faces he pulled and he had started walking, saying mummy and daddy, and saying words only we could understand. He was always up to mischief like a typical one-year-old who has just learned to walk.
“We have pictures of Layton in the living room and we have a record with two Mumford and Sons songs on, which we played at his funeral. He loved those.
“When we go to the cemetery, the kids kiss his picture and we spend hours there. We will never forget him and when his baby brothers are old enough, we will tell them all about him. We don’t want others to suffer the same as us.”
Hospital Trust says improving sepsis identification and treatment is a ‘key priority’
In a statement to the Daily Mail newspaper, Ian Martin, medical director at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘On behalf of the Trust, I express our deepest condolences to Layton’s family for the tragic loss of their son and brother in 2015.
“Over the past three years, the NHS nationally and locally has placed a major focus on increasing awareness of sepsis to support healthcare professionals in recognising and treating symptoms of this ‘silent killer’.
“Ensuring timely identification and treatment of sepsis is one of our key quality improvement priorities and we now have a dedicated sepsis lead working with teams across the trust to provide regular training and support for staff around spotting the signs and symptoms of potential sepsis cases early and acting quickly to provide prompt treatment.
“Sepsis is a serious complication of an infection and a leading cause of death across the UK. It is extremely difficult to recognise and diagnose and working together with the UK Sepsis Trust, the NHS is now making great strides to raise awareness amongst all staff groups to help potentially save more lives in future.’
Dave said his experience of Hudgell Solicitors has been positive as they were in regular contact with Mrs White throughout the case.
He said: “Hudgell Solicitors have been absolutely fantastic in supporting us to challenge the care provided to Layton. Every couple of weeks, they sent an e-mail, even if they didn’t have an update for me, and gave me timescales of when I’d hear from them again.
“The service was perfect and if I needed anything, they responded to me immediately. I can’t fault them at all.”