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  • Prevention of Future Deaths report: Sarah Dunn (12 May 2022)

    • UK
    • Reports and articles
    • Pre-existing
    • Original author
    • No
    • Louise Rae, Assistant Coroner
    • 12/05/22
    • Health and care staff, Patient safety leads


    Sarah Louise Dunn was admitted to the Blackpool Victoria Hospital on 10 April 2020. She was suffering from a Group A Streptococus infection following an early medical abortion on 23 March 2020 which by the time of her admission at hospital had produced sepsis and had progressed to toxic shock. Signs of sepsis were apparent before and on her admission given Sarah’s history and symptoms but Sarah was treated upon admission to hospital as a Covid-19 patient.

    Prior to admission, Sarah had not been seen by a doctor on either 9 or 10 April despite contacting both her GP surgery and the Out of Hours Service. The surgery pharmacist had not read Sarah’s notes properly and was not aware on 9 April that she had recently had undergone an early medical abortion. Her GP on 1 April had not recorded his face to face consultation with her nor noted the possibility of infection. Sepsis was not recognised or treated by the GP surgery, emergency department or Acute Medical Unit and upon Sarah’s arrival at hospital, the sepsis pathway was not followed. Antibiotics were not given to Sarah until 7.5 hours after her arrival at hospital. Sarah suffered a seizure at 6.30pm on the Acute Medical Unit and was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. These matters in aggregate impacted on her care and Sarah would not have died had she been admitted to hospital sooner. Sarah died on 11 April 2020 on the Intensive Care Unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital at 2.15am.


    Matter of concerns: Inadequate training of doctors and other medical professionals re the risk of sepsis following Early Medical Terminations.

    Evidence from a wide range of clinicians who had cared for Sarah in March and April 2020 echoed each other. The clinician evidence revealed a common theme of lack of training, knowledge or experience on the part of physicians and medical staff (including GPs, pharmacist and acute hospital doctors) regarding the rare risk of sepsis following Early Medical Termination. The hospital trust accepted that at the time of Sarah’s death, there was confirmation bias in their thinking due to the Covid 19 pandemic and that other differential diagnosis were not considered in this case. Whilst the witness evidence was that Sepsis protocols were in place at both the GP surgery and the hospital trust, what is of particular concern is that none of the professionals who saw or spoke to Sarah were considering Sepsis in this case. Sarah was spoken to and seen by numerous medical professionals in both primary and secondary care but no sepsis protocols were initiated and the coroner found that the compounding delays in screening, diagnosis and treatment more than minimally contributed to a poor outcome in Sarah’s case.

    Prevention of Future Deaths report: Sarah Dunn (12 May 2022) https://www.judiciary.uk/publications/sarah-dunn-prevention-of-future-deaths-report/
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