St Albans toddler died after 90 minute wait for doctor

A TODDLER who died of pneumonia waited 90 minutes to see a doctor after arriving at an urgent care centre with respiratory problems, despite having been given a priority appointment.

At the inquest into the death of Aadam Uddin of Wilshere Avenue, St Albans, last Friday, it was revealed that the two year old died of pneumonia just hours after being diagnosed with a chest infection by his GP in May last year.

A post-mortem examination revealed that the pneumonia had been incredibly severe although all examinations of Aadam when he was alive had concluded he was struggling with a chest infection.

His heart-broken parents told the inquest how Aadam’s symptoms had first appeared at the beginning of May and they’d taken him to see their family GP. They were advised to monitor their son’s symptoms, give him Calpol to deal with his high temperature and return in two weeks if the symptoms persisted.

Mr and Mrs Uddin returned with Aadam after two weeks had elapsed because their son’s condition had worsened – his temperature remained high and he wasn’t eating or drinking properly.

Aadam was prescribed antibiotics but later that evening his breathing became wheezy and he appeared to be struggling to breathe. Mr Uddin contacted Herts Urgent Care (HUC) and a GP told them to take Aadam to the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) in Hemel Hempstead. The GP gave Aadam an urgent priority and an appointment for 12 midnight. They arrived at 12.02am but Aadam was not seen until 1.30am.

Mr Uddin told the coroner that he had approached the reception area three times to request help for his son and each time was asked to wait for a doctor.

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The only GP at the centre, Dr Esther Abraham, told the inquest that she had not been made aware of the toddler’s arrival until 1.30am and said she would normally expect to be alerted to such a case by another member of staff. In her evidence, Dr Abraham described a complicated system of screens which normally alert staff to the arrival of patients and their priority listing but admitted that due to a heavy workload she had been unable to check it.

Upon examining Aadam, Dr Abraham said that although his vital signs were not alarming, they were not normal and wanted him to be seen at Watford General Hospital.

Dr Abraham and paramedic staff told the inquest that they had believed Aadam to be stable enough for transfer when he left the UCC but on route he had a cardiac and respiratory arrest. Efforts were made to revive him both in the ambulance and at Watford, but he was pronounced dead at 4.05am.

Dr Amanda Equi, consultant paediatrician at Watford, explained to the family that children often fought illnesses better than adults and that this might go some way to explain why the severity of it was not instantly recognisable. But she said that eventually a child would be overwhelmed, as in Aadam’s case, and their demise would be extremely rapid.

Assistant Deputy Coroner Dr Francis Cranfield recorded a narrative verdict. She said Aadam had a cardiac and respiratory arrest in the transfer to Watford having spent an hour and 28 minutes at the GP out of hours base before seeing a clinician. Dr Cranfield assured the family that she would be writing to HUC regarding their patient priority system.