Experts clash over death of baby Alexia

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

EXPERTS clashed at an inquest over a decision to discharge a three-month-old baby girl from hospital - just hours before she died.

Alexia Carnall-Cotterell had already stopped breathing twice when her mum Nikki, of Batemoor, took her to the Children’s Hospital.

Despite wheezing and coughing, the baby was discharged at 2am and died five hours later after going into cardiac arrest.

At a resumed inquest, Dr Stephen Conway, of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said Alexia should not have been discharged when she was and criticised the care by junior doctor Syeeda Alam.

He claimed she had failed to find out about the child’s social circumstances – that Alexia would be going home to sleep on the couch with her single mother – which could have led to the deterioration of her condition.

Dr Alam also failed to carry out vital signs observations on the baby, the inquest heard.

Dr Conway said: “No attempt was made to understand where Alexia was going after she was discharged at 2am, which is not a sensible time to discharge a young child.

“I don’t think a high or even reasonable standard of care was given by Dr Alam in her final assessment.”

But Dr Ian Maconochie, lead consultant in paediatric emergency medicine at St Mary’s Hospital, London, said: “In emergency departments, social concerns are not a reason for admission, unless there is a safeguarding issue. This was a well-nourished, otherwise well child and the fact she had visited a GP earlier in the day showed a degree of parental concern.

“I think the discharge was reasonable, despite the fact it was 2am. The other important feature is observations were performed during her stay in hospital and her heart rate was within normal limits.”

A post-mortem had found the cause of death to be acute bronchitis and early bronchio-pneumonia.

South Yorkshire assistant deputy coroner Julian Fox said: “The views of these two experts seem irreconcilable. I have had the advantage of hearing evidence from the doctors and nurses and they all impressed me with their concern to do the right thing for Alexia. The junior doctor on duty, although inexperienced, sought advice from a senior. For that reason I prefer the evidence of Dr Maconochie and the most appropriate verdict is it is more likely than not Alexia died from natural causes.”