Jump to content
  • Prevention of Future Deaths: Alexander Davidson (29 July 2019)

    Article information
    • UK
    • Reports and articles
    • Pre-existing
    • Original author
    • No
    • Laurinda Bower, Coroner
    • 29/07/19
    • Health and care staff, Patient safety leads


    Alexander James Davidson was aged 17 years and 6 months when he died at the Queens Medical Centre on 26 February 2018. Alex was previously fit and well before suddenly taking ill with abdominal pain on 17 January 2018. Between that date and his admission to the Queens Medical Centre on 8 February 2018, Alex made contact with his GP on three occasions, had four telephone triage assessments undertaken by the NHS 111 service and two admissions to his local Accident & Emergency Department at the Kingsmill Hospital.

    Alex’s symptoms of sudden onset acute abdominal pain, tachycardia, and vomiting and diarrhoea were attributed either to stress or to a bout of gastroenteritis. At no stage prior to 8 February 2018 was gallstones or pancreatitis considered as a differential diagnosis. When Alex was eventually admitted to the Queens Medical Centre Emergency Department on 8 February 2018, he was found to be septic as a result of an infected and necrotic pancreatic pseudocyst, which had evolved as a complication of gallstone pancreatitis, a rare condition in someone of Alex’s age. Despite medical intervention, Alex did not survive.

    The inquest explored the medical treatment and intervention that Alex received in the six weeks prior to his death. The medical evidence concluded that the pancreatic pseudocyst had likely formed by the time Alex began vomiting on 18 January 2018, and from that point onwards, it was unlikely he would survive even with treatment on account of the high mortality rate associated with this condition


    Coroner's concerns

    1. The NHS 111 telephone triage service uses the NHS Pathways computer system to triage patients via pre-determined question/answer based algorithms. The pre-determined questions are the same whether the caller is an adult or a child. Alex struggled to comprehend some of the medical terminology used during these calls. Call handlers are not permitted to deviate from the prescribed wording of the pre-determined questions, and this created confusion and inconsistency in the patient’s answers. Consideration should be given as to how young and/or vulnerable patients can be assisted to provide accurate information about their symptoms.
    2. The NHS Pathways algorithm for triaging vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms is unclear as patients may fail to understand what is meant by ‘soil’ or ‘coffee ground’ vomit. Consideration should be given to how this important diagnostic feature can be explored during telephone triage, especially when the patient is young and/or vulnerable.
    3. The NHS 111 telephone triage service provides an electronic copy of the patient triage notes to the patient’s GP within minutes of the call ending. There was a delay of 7 days in the GP surgery uploading the 111 triage document to Alex’s patient record. This prevented Alex’s GP from reviewing the triage note prior to his consultation with the patient. There is no guidance as to expected practise with regards to the timely updating of electronic patient records, and as a result delays are all too frequent.
    4. Adults presenting to their GP or Emergency Department with abdominal symptoms receive a lipase and/or amylase blood test as part of the standard package of blood testing. The levels of each of these enzymes can be used to diagnose pancreatitis. Patients under the age of 18 years are not offered this testing as standard, on the basis that pancreatitis is rare in paediatric patients. The coroner heard anecdotal evidence of some doctors at Kingsmill Hospital now add this test to the standard admission bloods for older teenage patients who present with non-specific abdominal symptoms but the NICE guidance (September 2018) is not explicit in this regard. Consideration ought to be given to a national approach for lipase/amylase testing in young people with relevant symptoms.
    5. Patients who make an unscheduled return to the Emergency Department within 72 hours of discharge are required to have a review undertaken by an ED Consultant, or a ST4 trainee or above in the absence of a Consultant on the ‘shop floor’: RCEM Guidance June 2016. Some hospitals will admit returning paediatric patients for observations but practise seems to vary doctor-to-doctor and across Trusts. Consideration ought to be given to a national approach.
    Prevention of Future Deaths: Alexander Davidson (29 July 2019) https://www.judiciary.uk/publications/alexander-davidson/
    0 reactions so far


    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now
  • Create New...