Catalogue of errors lead to death of Thame youngster

Oliver Blockley
Oliver Blockley

Stoke Mandeville Hospital has admitted to a catalogue of errors which led to the death of a four-year-old Thame boy.

Health chiefs have issued a ‘sincere’ apology to his devastated mother and said new procedures have been put in place to make sure such tragedies do not happen again.

Jennifer Blockley, who lives in Thame with her husband and two children, took her son Oliver to hospital after he showed symptoms of viral gasteroentiritis in October 2011.

But after a catalogue of errors by hospital staff, including failing to provide the correct drugs and fluids and not monitoring his condition when he began to deteriorate.

Oliver went into septic shock before he suffered a cardiac arrest and died.

Ms Blockley, 29, said: “He was so special, and really kind and gentle, he was just lovely.

“At the time he had an 18-month-old brother, Finley, who was just at that stage where he really liked his older brother; it was really, really hard.I feel that it’s every parent’s right to know that the main hospital in their area has had major failings in care for a child who, if treated correctly, had a 95% chance of survival from the infection.

“Even when I questioned the care at the time I was told that it was just a tummy bug and that it would be fine.Even at the end when Ollie was losing his battle with life after being so let down earlier that day by the staff at Stoke Mandeville, I saw the most unprofessional handling of the situation.”

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust was placed in special measures last year after a review of patient safety in hospitals.

The trust has now written a formal letter of apology to Oliver’s family admitting 28 counts of negligence, but Ms Blockley said it has all come too little too late.

She said: “Losing Ollie meant I and all of his family have lost a huge part of ourselves.

“We all just wanted some answers and reassurance from the hospital of the implemented changes, but all we had was a very impersonal letter stating that they had made changes but no explanation to what these were.

“As for the heading on their letter head paper ‘safe and compassionate care every time,’ it just cut deeplybecause if that were the case, my beautiful Ollie would still be here.”

Ms Blockley then enlisted the services of Darby’s Solicitors, who took on the case. The firm hired an independent paediatric consultant who described the case as ‘absolutely shocking’.

Laura Cook, of the firm, said: “Unfortunately the trust’s lack of openness at the time of Oliver’s death meant that Ms Blockley was denied the opportunity at the inquest to take legal advice.

“Even when Ms Blockley was invited to a meeting with a hospital consultant and one of the trust’s legal team to discuss events, she was met with vague and defensive excuses for why Oliver had died and led to believe that the hospital couldn’t be to blame, even thought they knew that their own investigation had highlighted serious failings.

“They did not give Ms Blockley a copy of their internal report, or tell her what it had found.”

She added: “It’s another sad example of the NHS only admitting to mistakes after legal action is taken, putting the family through additional stress at what is already such a traumatic time.”

Anne Eden, chief executive of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “I sincerely and without reservation apologise to Ms Blockley for the actions of the Trust which led to the death of Oliver in 2011.

“We have made every effort to be open and transparent with the Blockleys throughout this very distressing time and our clinicians have met with the family to help them understand what happened.

“We have thoroughly reviewed the circumstances around Oliver’s death, as well as policies, procedures and staff training, and we commissioned an independent expert review.

“A number of other improvements have been made, which include strengthening our early warning process for recognising when a child’s condition is getting worse, improving how we care and treat patients with gastroenteritis – in particular the use and types of fluid given – and additional advanced life support training.

She added: “We recognise and regret that nothing will ever change this terrible situation for the Blockleys but we have learned the lessons and hope these changes will ensure that as far as possible no other family will suffer in the same way.”