Bereaved parents in sepsis warning after hospital care failings identified

The parents of a two-year-old boy who died of sepsis after hospital doctors missed warning signs are campaigning to raise awareness about the condition.

Arlo Bennett suffered a cardiac arrest and died just hours after being admitted to Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital on February 1 last year.

Despite paramedics identifying sepsis red flags and then pre-warning the hospital about Arlo’s condition, doctors missed the diagnosis.

Arlo Bennett
Arlo Bennett, right, with his family (Irwin Mitchell Solicitors/Family/PA)

An official hospital investigation found his symptoms, including fever and a high heart rate, met the criteria for sepsis screening, but doctors instead diagnosed a possible respiratory infection.

Crucially, medics failed to use a sepsis screening tool, or get intravenous antibiotics into Arlo soon enough.

The NHS trust which runs the hospital has apologised unreservedly for mistakes and delays in the youngster’s treatment.

With World Sepsis Day falling on September 13, Arlo’s parents Leanne Amyes, 28, and Finton Bennett, 26, of Solihull, are raising awareness about the condition and calling for lessons to be learned.

A serious incident report by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust (UHB) found the root cause of Arlo’s death was a “delay in recognition and treatment of sepsis” caused by meningitis.

It said that had the possibility of meningitis or sepsis been considered earlier and antibiotics given, “the outcome may have been different”.

Arlo arrived at hospital at about 1am but doctors performing an initial assessment believed he was displaying signs of an early viral upper respiratory tract infection.

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Arlo was treated at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital (David Jones/PA)

Medics failed to use a sepsis screening tool during nine further assessments and observations, when Arlo was found to be unsettled and hot to the touch.

At 9.50am, his mother noticed a purple rash on Arlo’s skin, and it was only afterwards at about 10am that meningitis was diagnosed and IV antibiotics administered.

Doctors discussed moving him to a specialist children’s hospital but he suffered a cardiac arrest at 1.30pm and died half-an-hour later.

The investigation report found Arlo was not placed on a sepsis pathway to have tests confirming or ruling out the presence of the condition.

The report made several recommendations including making medical staff aware of the sepsis pathway screening tool, and recommending a consultant should lead assessments of patients admitted with a fever.

The quality of medical notes should also be reviewed and improved where necessary as a priority.

Ms Amyes, who also has a six-year-old son Alfie with her boyfriend, said: “Arlo was such a happy boy who was always smiling and it remains incredibly hard to talk about what happened.

“I have lost my beautiful son and Alfie his little play mate.

“It’s still difficult that we do not understand why Arlo was not screened and treated for sepsis given how serious it is.

“Although he was very poorly it’s hard not to think that he would still be with us and of how he would be growing and developing if the seriousness of his condition had been recognised and he had received treatment sooner.

“Before this I hadn’t really heard of sepsis but it’s now something that we will never forget.

“The pain and grief has been unbearable and I don’t know whether our family will ever come to terms with it.

“While I know nothing will change what has happened, I just hope that by speaking out about Arlo’s death it makes people aware of how dangerous sepsis is and the need to be aware and recognise signs of the condition.

“I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone.”

The couple have employed specialist solicitors Irwin Mitchell to help investigate the care their son received.

Laura Ellacott, from the law firm, said: “Sadly through our work we often see the devastating consequences that families can be left to face because of sepsis.

“Awareness of the signs of sepsis and early detection are key to beating it.

“While the hospital trust’s own report has identified concerns in respect of Arlo’s care, we welcome the recommendations it has included.

“Nothing can make up for Arlo’s death but it’s vital that these recommendations are upheld at all times so others don’t have to suffer the heartbreak that Leanne and her family have.”

A UHB spokeswoman said: “The trust offers its unreserved apologies for the failings in the care of Arlo Bennett and extends its deepest sympathy to Leanne Amyes and her family for their sad loss.

“Our investigation acknowledged a delay in recognition of Arlo’s condition and that earlier treatment could have led to a different outcome.

“It is vitally important that we learn from this tragic death and to this end we have implemented and continue to closely monitor the action plan arising from our serious incident report.”

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