Parents accept £30,000 and apology as trust admits mistakes in treating toddler

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The parents of a little girl who died on Christmas Day are to be paid a £30,000 settlement after their local hospitals trust admitted her death could have been avoided with appropriate care.

Lee and Leanne Shepherd, who were represented by BL Claims Solicitors, have agreed to accept compensation from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust over the death of their 22-month-old daughter Anabelle.

The couple’s acceptance of the settlement is on condition that it comes with a written apology and admission that Anabelle would not have died when she did if she had been given appropriate care at Queen Alexandra Hospital (QAH), Portsmouth.

The family also sought reassurances that changes have been made to hospital procedures to minimise the risk of similar failures affecting other families.

Anabelle died on Christmas Day 2012 after being taken to QAH by her parents, who were concerned that she had become lethargic and not her usual self.

Anabelle, from Portsmouth, suffered from the genetic condition MPS Type 1 - Hurler’s Syndrome, and had been treated at London’s GreatOrmondStreetHospital (GOSH) by undergoing a bone marrow transplant. Part of her treatment meant she had drugs to suppress her immune system.

BL Claims Solicitors represented the Shepherd family at an inquest into Anabelle’s death in September and October 2013, at which Coroner Keith Wiseman noted that medics at QAH “did not give adequate recognition to her vulnerable clinical status”.

Following the Coroner’s verdict, Mr and Mrs Shepherd began legal proceedings against the trust. Their case was that Anabelle’s life could have been saved if doctors had given intravenous antibiotics and carried out basic monitoring of her condition while in their care.

Today Patricia Wakeford, an associate solicitor in BL Claims Solicitors’ clinical negligence team, said: “Mr and Mrs Shepherd’s main concern in this case has been to highlight gaps and failings in respect of the care Anabelle received in Portsmouth.

“They wanted to ensure that lessons were learned from Anabelle’s case so that no other parents have to go through what they have experienced. In particular they wanted to ensure that local hospitals are properly equipped to manage issues such as immunosuppression when a patient is admitted.”

MPS Type 1, Hurler's syndrome is a rare genetic disorder affecting 1 in 117,000 children. Anabelle was the only sufferer of this condition in Hampshire. Sufferers of Hurler’s Syndrome are missing an enzyme and without treatment, complex sugars accumulate within the body's tissues, causing damage to their organs and death in childhood.

An effective treatment is a bone marrow transplant so that the new marrow can make the missing enzyme. 

Anabelle underwent that treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in August 2012 and part of this treatment meant that she needed specialist drugs to suppress her immune system to prevent the transplant from being rejected by her body. This left her at risk from infections while that treatment continued.

Anabelle was admitted to QAH on December 23, 2012. She was given oral antibiotics but these caused her to vomit almost immediately.

On Christmas Eve, Anabelle was seen by a consultant paediatrician at QAH who discussed her case with GOSH and it was decided to take various tests but these were not reported for many hours. By the evening it was clear that Anabelle’s kidneys were not working properly.

Further discussions were held with GOSH and Anabelle was given intravenous antibiotics at midnight. However, at 3am on Christmas Day, Anabelle’s condition worsened and she was rushed to the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at SouthamptonGeneralHospital, where medics at the paediatric intensive care unit tried to save her. In spite of their efforts, Anabelle’s condition deteriorated further and she died at 2.40pm from septic shock.

In a statement, Anabelle’s parents said: “Anabelle had gone through so much after being diagnosed with MPS type 1 – Hurler’s Syndrome and after intensive treatment she had the chance of a near normal life. It sickens us every day to think she went through all that she did to have been robbed of her life due to not receiving adequate care, especially from her home city’s hospital.

“Anabelle getting an infection was not a surprise to us. GOSH had warned us that this may happen and she may need to be admitted to our local hospital to receive IV antibiotics. However sadly when we got to QAH things didn’t go as they should and the correct treatment was not given until it was far too late. Sadly she was let down by them - more should have been done.

“There isn’t enough money in the world to compensate us for the loss of Anabelle – she was a unique, strong little girl who always had a smile on her face. We knew things could have been so different had the correct protocols been in place. QAH stated at the inquest that changes and procedures have been made and we truly hope so, as our purpose for doing this is to ensure this doesn’t happen to another child or family.

“We had to pursue this for her and now that it has been admitted and changes have been made we can hopefully move on although Anabelle will forever be in our hearts. Every day we now wake up with a black cloud over our heads and we are just learning how to cope with life with this and without her.

“Even though Anabelle had Hurler’s syndrome you wouldn’t have known. She was a bright, happy, smiley little star and we are so very very proud to have been her parents.”

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