Why is no one to blame?

IPSWICH: A leading meningitis charity has today called for better observation of children to help save lives following the tragic deaths of two Ipswich youngsters to the disease.

An investigation has uncovered serious failings at Ipswich Hospital following the deaths of 11-month-old Ellie Parsons and two-year-old Rhianna Warner, both from Ipswich.

National charity Meningitis UK has today called for better monitoring of children in the wake of the tragedy. The Evening Star is also asking why no individual staff members at wthe hospital are to blame for the deaths.

The families of the two youngsters were left devastated when their beloved children died within hours of getting the symptoms last December. It was found they both died from meningococcal septicaemia.

Today it can be revealed that a checklist of vital signs was not followed properly in either of the cases. This comes after the hospital released its findings of an investigation, in which it admitted there was a “failure by staff” to give proper attention to the symptoms and added there will be a detailed action plan to ensure “appropriate guidance is followed in the future.”

However Peter Donaldson, the hospital trust’s medical director, added that these were “not the failings of individuals within the hospital so much as a failure of the hospital.”

The Star understands that the hospital did not carry out a national procedure, called a Paediatric Early Warning System, which are a series of checks by hospital staff when children are admitted to the emergency unit.

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Meningitis UK said health professionals need to make sure they are alert to the signs as meningitis can kill within hours.

Steve Dayman, the chief executive of the charity, who lost his own son to the disease in 1982, said: “It’s always worrying to hear about cases where standard procedures weren’t followed.

“Although the report can’t say whether this would have saved Ellie and Rhianna’s lives, we know that the sooner antibiotics are administered the better the chances of survival are.

“While meningitis is notoriously difficult to diagnose, health professionals need to make sure they’re alert to all the signs because of the speed at which meningitis strikes, sometimes killing in under four hours.

“We continue to get a distinct impression that if children were observed for longer then more lives would be saved.

“In Ellie’s case, her parents suspected meningitis when they took her to hospital but she was sent home with a water infection. It’s important to listen to parents’ concerns as they know their children best.

“Meningitis should always be a major consideration because early diagnosis and hospital treatment can mean the difference between life and death.”

The Paediatric Early Warning system is designed to measure a number of vital signs including heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and the amount of oxygen in the blood. There is a score system involved which helps assess patients conditions.

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said: “We are pleased to see far-reaching and robust investigations have taken place into the tragic deaths of these two children and we are confident any subsequent issues raised will be addressed by Ipswich Hospital.”

Both families were too upset to speak to The Evening Star about the outcome of the investigation.

n Have you suffered a tragedy and want to tell us your story? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@evening star.co.uk