Mother Natalie Deviren was concerned when her two-year-old daughter Myla awoke in the night crying with a restlessness and sickness familiar to all parents. Natalie was slightly alarmed, however, because at times her child seemed breathless.
She consulted an online NHS symptom checker. Myla had been vomiting. Her lips were not their normal colour. And her breathing was rapid. The symptom checker recommended a hospital visit, but suggested she check first with NHS 111, the helpline for urgent medical help. To her bitter regret, Natalie followed the advice.
She spoke for 40 minutes to two advisers, but they and their software failed to recognise a life-threatening situation with “red flag” symptoms, including rapid breathing and possible bile in the vomit.
Myla died from an intestinal blockage the next day and could have survived with treatment.
The two calls to NHS 111 before the referral to the out-of-hours service were audited. Both failed the required standards, but Natalie was told that the first adviser and the out-of-hours nurse had since been promoted. She discovered at Myla’s inquest that “action plans” to prevent future deaths had not been fully implemented. The coroner recommended that NHS 111 have a paediatric clinician available at all times.
In her witness statement at her daughter’s inquest in July, Natalie said: “You’re just left with soul-destroying sadness. It is existing with a never-ending ache in your heart. The pure joy she brought to our family is indescribable.”
Source: The Times, 5 January 2020