Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Health watchdog slams Craigavon hospital death

A health watchdog has criticised bosses at Craigavon Area Hospital for the treatment of a 15-year-old disabled teenager who died just days after admission to the hospital.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has struck off Ruth Bullas for misconduct in relation to her care of Conor Mitchell but said she must not be held solely responsible for failings in his treatment at the hospital.

Conor - who had cerebral palsy - was admitted to the A&E at Craigavon Area Hospital on May 8, 2003, suffering from a sore throat and ear.

His condition deteriorated rapidly and he was transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children where he died four days later.

Conor's case is part of an ongoing independent inquiry into fluid management in hospitals across Northern Ireland but his mother, Joanna Mitchell, made a separate complaint about the conduct of Ms Bullas - a nurse in the medical assessment unit.

In a damning indictment of the care the Lurgan teenager received, the NMC judgment of the case said: "The evidence before the panel revealed further wide-ranging and systemic deficiencies in Conor's treatment and care."

The panel went on to criticise the fact Ms Bullas was given responsibility for caring for Conor "with little or no ongoing support despite her lack of experience", and a lack of timely access to paediatric facilities and expertise.

Mrs Mitchell - who is now planning to make further complaints about the conduct of other healthcare professionals - has welcomed the findings which she described as the first time failings in the care her son received have been officially recognised.

"It has been eight long years waiting for someone to recognise Conor didn't get the care he should have and I want to convey how relieved I am at the findings of the NMC," she said.

"They went further than they had to as well.

"They were there to look at the conduct of Ruth Bullas but they also said there were systemic failures. "I am totally disgusted with all the care Conor received at Craigavon. He was my life.

"I don't think Ruth Bullas should ever have been let near any patients.

"She has been struck off now and can't do anymore damage.

"When the panel read out their judgment my mum and I cried.

"People think Conor died as a result of his cerebral palsy and he didn't. He wasn't a sickly child and he should still be alive today."

Mrs Mitchell also criticised the fact her son was treated in adult wards during his time at Craigavon Area Hospital.

"Conor was 15 but was the size of an eight-year-old," she said.

"He was taken to the medical assessment unit and then moved to the intensive care unit.

"They said because he was 15 he was too old to go to paediatrics but all their equipment was too big.

"They told me he was doing better and said they were transferring him to the children's hospital in Belfast.

"He should have been in a children's ward all along.

"No-one has ever apologised to me about what happened. They won't meet us.

"They sent us a letter saying they have nothing further to add to the findings of the inquest.

"The Trust offered me £12,500 a few years ago but in return I wasn't allowed to speak about what happened.

"I told them I didn't want their money.

"No-one should ever have to go through what I've been through. No mother should have to watch their child die."

A spokeswoman for the Southern Trust said: "The Trust would like to offer heartfelt condolences to the Mitchell family."

She said they could not comment further on his care as it is part of the ongoing hyponatraemia inquiry. She continued: The Trust would however wish to clarify that a without prejudice offer of settlement was made to Ms Mitchell in 2008.

"This was not accepted and the case was subsequently withdrawn.

"At no time did the Trust nor its legal representatives suggest that Ms Mitchell would not be allowed to discuss the case."

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) exists to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the public. The NMC registers all nurses and midwives and ensures they are properly qualified and competent to work in the UK.

It sets the standards of education, training and conduct so that nurses and midwives need to deliver high quality healthcare consistently throughout their careers. It also ensures registrants keep their skills and knowledge up to date and uphold the standards of their professional code.

The NMC also investigates allegations made against nurses and midwives who may not have followed the code and has the power to impose a number of sanctions, including striking a nurse or midwife from the register.

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