“Claims hospital refused to help choking Alfie, 3”

On 17 December 2015, this was the front page headline in the ‘New Forest Post’: report dated 16 December on the web site).

A Southern Health hospital (a general hospital with a minor injury unit) allegedly refused to help 3-year old Alfie, who had a £1 coin lodged in his windpipe and was struggling to breath. Having been directed to the hospital (a 5-minute drive away) by the ambulance service, his mother was allegedly turned away by a receptionist, who directed her to Southampton General Hospital without suggesting an ambulance – normally a 16.6-mile, 40-minute drive¹: with heavy traffic (and of course no sirens) it took 90-minutes.

Southampton General rushed Alfie to X-ray and doctors performed an emergency operation to remove the coin. On this basis, his mother’s claim that Alfie could have died seems plausible.

The only reported comments by Southern Health include the normal platitudes:

“We have already taken action to ensure the safety of our patients, including extra training, and new procedures and processes.”

And of course:

“We are unable to comment further whilst the investigation is still underway.”

Questions for Katrina Percy and Dr Lesley Stevens:

The Mazars Review identified serious failings at your mental health and learning disability units, including failures in leadership and management. Are these failings replicated at your hospitals for the physically unwell, for which you are responsible too?

Why did the receptionist not ask a doctor at least to carry out a risk assessment?

Have you recorded this as a Serious Incident: reporting should include ‘near misses’?

Will there be an independent investigation?

Will the family be fully involved in the investigation?

Finally, I suspect the Southampton General tooth-fairy left the £1 coin for Alfie.

Will the Southern Health tooth-fairy – Katrina Percy – visit Alfie and his Mum with a personal apology and a big fat cheque for anxiety and distress – or will she make an insulting offer via a junior official?

¹AA Route Planner


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