Commissioners and police have launched reviews into events surrounding the death of a three-year-old boy at Stafford Hospital. It comes amid claims that statements from health workers who witnessed his death have been falsified.
The parents of Jonnie Meek, who died at the hospital’s children’s unit in August last year, have also discovered what they believe are attempts to alter their son’s medical history to include events such as cardiac arrests that they say never happened.
The former Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was at the centre of a public inquiry into claims of poor care affecting hundreds of patients. It was dissolved in November 2014.
Healthcare assistant Lauren Tew, who was in the room when Jonnie died, told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal a false statement was made in her name to Staffordshire’s statutory child death overview panel in an attempt “to cover up” events.
The panel is responsible for reviewing information on all unexpected child deaths.
Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group has said it will carry out an independent investigation into the case and Staffordshire Police have promised a review of evidence submitted to the panel.
Jonnie, who was born with rare congenital disability de Grouchy syndrome, died on 11 August 2014 just over two hours after being admitted to hospital to trial a new feed which was put directly into his stomach.
His parents, John Meek and April Keeling, believe their son died after a bad reaction to the feed caused him to vomit and suffocate.
After starting the feed, Ms Keeling said she saw Jonnie develop a rash, vomit once and turn purple before he stopped breathing.
She claimed nurses and doctors ignored her concerns, despite her son having suffered previous bad reactions to the same feed leading to him being admitted to hospital earlier in 2014.
The couple only learned the extent of what they describe as “the deceit” against their family by using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain records and notes from the trust and the child death overview panel.
“I was one of those who stood by the hospital but to see all the deceit after what happened to Jonnie it has made me feel like I have no trust in people anymore”
One statement, submitted to the panel, was in the name of Ms Tew, who worked full time as a HCA supporting Jonnie at home. The statement claimed Jonnie was in his mother’s arms when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
Ms Tew said: “I did not give that statement. I find it really hard to believe that someone has put a statement in on my behalf. It makes me quite angry because nobody has ever contacted me.
“There is someone who has done something wrong and instead of owning up to what’s happened they are trying to cover it up,” she said.
Ms Tew said Jonnie deteriorated while on the feed and described him turning purple. She added: “There were a lot of opportunities for something to be done that were not. A lot of things were ignored and just passed off as normal for Jonnie when they weren’t.”
According to clinical notes, nurse Amanda Nicholls, who was looking after Jonnie on the day he died, recorded him “choking” before he went into cardiac arrest, but she later told the inquest that she had meant he was “coughing”.
A consultant who tried to resuscitate Jonnie recorded in his clinical notes a “thick, milky mucous” blockage, which he said required suction and reached as far as Jonnie’s larynx.
An investigation by the foundation trust following Jonnie’s death, led by head of children’s services Kim Wooliscroft, described Jonnie’s death as a sudden “unexpected decline” and denied he had shown evidence of a bad reaction to the feed. Ms Wooliscroft also sits on the child death overview panel.
“There were a lot of opportunities for something to be done that were not”
University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust, which now runs Stafford Hospital, is undertaking its own investigation.
At an inquest into Jonnie’s death in January, senior assistant coroner Margaret Jones said Ms Keeling’s concerns were “loose ends that cannot be neatly tied off” and recorded a verdict of natural causes due to pneumonia.
The coroner also refused a request from the family’s lawyers that the inquest hear evidence from Ms Tew and another nurse who saw Jonnie before he died.
In another statement to the panel, Jonnie was described as having “had previous cardiac arrests and been resuscitated back to life 2-3 times”.
His parents say this is untrue and his GP has no record of previous cardiac arrests.
Another statement suggests Jonnie was admitted to the hospital in May last year for a three week stay and was critically ill on intravenous antibiotics. His parents are adamant this never happened.
Mr Meek said: “There has been a complete disregard for our family. We lost Jonnie and then it’s like they have just walked all over him and disrespected him as if he never mattered anyway… Each process has been an insult to him.”
Ms Keeling added: “I was one of those who stood by the hospital but to see all the deceit after what happened to Jonnie it has made me feel like I have no trust in people anymore and we have been stabbed in the back by those we thought we could trust. We don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
“We have commissioned an independent review and assessment of the information provided to the child death overview panel”
Andrew Donald, chief officer at Stafford and Surrounds CCG, said that after meeting with the family the CCG had set up an independent clinical review. A CCG spokesman said this would look at the clinical treatment, complaint handling and concerns raised by the family.
North Midlands chief executive Mark Hackett said: “It is important that this incredibly sad incident, which took place at Mid Staffs before the integration, is investigated as thoroughly and as swiftly as possible.
“It is for this reason that we have paused our own independent investigation to allow us to support the CCG investigation. I would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family of Jonnie Meek,” he said.
Detective superintendent Mark Dean, from Staffordshire Police’s public protection safeguarding department, said: “In the light of [Mr Meek’s] concerns we have commissioned an independent review and assessment of the information provided to the child death overview panel.”