Update: Norwich girl Georgia Keeling was failed by emergency services, coroner says
Archant © 2009
A two-year-old girl from Norwich who died after she was wrongly diagnosed with swine flu was failed by emergency services, a coroner has said.
Georgia Keeling, from West Earlham, died from a meningitis-like infection following the incorrect diagnosis at the height of the 2009 national pandemic.
The inquest in Norwich heard that paramedic Patricia Perfect had examined her at home but sent an ambulance away because it was “another case of swine flu”.
Four hours later, following a second 999 call, the toddler was rushed to hospital where she died.
Returning a narrative verdict, Norfolk coroner William Armstrong ruled Georgia died following an “erroneous diagnosis” and the fact she was not immediately admitted to hospital reduced her chances of survival and contributed to her death.
He said: “She died from a condition that was previously undiagnosed and the examination by Miss Perfect was inadequate and deficient and there was a failure to recognise the severity of her condition. Is it possible Miss Perfect was over-influenced by the fact there was at the time a prevalence of swine flu?
“There is no doubt at all that Georgia should have been sent to hospital immediately and she would have had a better chance of survival.”
He added that the East of England Ambulance Trust had already taken action to reduce the likelihood of future tragedies.
Earlier in the hearing it was suggested Georgia’s death on August 4, 2009 was the result of meningitis.
Pathologist Xenia Tyler said a post-mortem showed she died from a group A streptococcal infection, a rare form of blood poisoning which can develop into meningitis.
Speaking after the inquest, Dr Pamela Chrispin, medical director and deputy chief executive at the East of England Ambulance Service, offered her “deepest condolences” to Georgia’s family.
She added many children with fever and a rash are safely seen, treated and left at home.
Dr Chrispin said the ambulance service had apologised for the shortcomings and was pleased the coroner had acknowledged the progress that had been made.
“In Georgia’s case we accept that, although the paramedic carried out an assessment and followed national guidance, she could have identified the potential for Georgia to become more seriously ill and arranged urgent admission to hospital,” Dr Chrispin said.
“She has since undergone a period of retraining and evaluation and has returned to frontline duties.
“This is a difficult area for all healthcare professionals involved in the assessment of children in the community and, as in this case, sadly there is occasionally a tragic outcome.
“Since Georgia’s death the East of England Ambulance Service have taken additional steps to help our staff recognise and manage seriously ill children.
“We are the leading ambulance service in the UK to work with the international Surviving Sepsis campaign, which promotes the early identification and treatment of sepsis.”
Mr Sewell said after the inquest that the last three years had been like “going through hell”.
But he said the family accepted that the ambulance service had learnt from the mistake.
He added: “We were failed by one person and we can’t blame the whole NHS for that.”
He and Ms Keeling issued a statement saying: “Nobody knows a child like their parents and we are saddened that despite our best instincts the ambulance service failed to provide adequate care to Georgia.
“We are pleased the ambulance service has apologised for the failings of its emergency care practitioner - we are only sorry that it has taken three years.”