Boy’s sepsis death preventable, says mother after coroner finds failures in care

The mother of a nine-year-old boy who died from sepsis just days after being sent home from hospital with flu has said his death was preventable after a coroner found there had been failures in his care.

Dylan Cope was sent home from the Grange Hospital in Cwmbran in December 2022 after being diagnosed with influenza and given a leaflet with advice for coughs and colds.

He died just over a week later at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff from sepsis.

Gwent Coroner Caroline Saunders recorded a narrative conclusion, saying there had been a “gross failure of basic care”.

She added: “His death was contributed to by neglect.”

An inquest into the death of Dylan Cope opened on Monday
The inquest into the death of Dylan Cope opened on Monday (family handout/PA)

The inquest had examined whether Dylan’s appendicitis, which led to sepsis, could or should have been picked up earlier.

The court was told that after falling ill, the boy saw his GP who suspected he had appendicitis and advised he go immediately to the Grange Hospital.

While there, Dylan was seen by a paediatric nurse practitioner, who noted he had indicated the pain was mainly on his left-hand side, away from the appendix. Tests also showed he had influenza.

A breakdown in communication between two medical staff meant Dylan was not reviewed by a senior doctor and he was later discharged.

Speaking afterwards, Dylan’s mother Corinne Cope said her family believe he should not have died.

“We appreciate the coroner’s findings,” she said. “From our own investigations we already felt that Dylan’s death was preventable.

“During the inquest process, we’ve painfully learned that the Grange University Hospital, touted as a ‘state-of-the-art super-hospital’, had what we saw as chaotic and shambolic processes that led to both extensive systemic and human errors.

“We understand that no single person is entirely to blame for the multiple failures, but a true no-blame culture should still include accountability and learning.

“Every individual must accept responsibility for their actions, regardless of whether their errors were accidental or unintentional.”

Mrs Cope, from Newport, added: “Dylan was our youngest son, a little boy with his whole life ahead of him.

“As a family, we have to adjust to being four instead of five; our circle is forever broken. This pain will last our entire lives, not just through this hearing.

“Dylan is central to all of this. The magnitude of losing his life has often been overshadowed by others minimising and thwarting attempts to uncover the truth.

“For our child to suffer and die from an easily treatable condition is unimaginable for most parents. This is now our living nightmare.”

Cope family lawyer Firdous Ibrahim, from Leigh Day, said: “It is rare for a coroner to find neglect in an inquest involving concerns with medical treatment, which further highlights what a tragic and unavoidable loss this was.

Dylan Cope died in December 2022
Dylan Cope died from sepsis in December 2022 (family handout/PA)

“The coroner’s conclusion found there were a significant number of failures by multiple healthcare professionals that would have prevented Dylan’s death.

“While improvements in care have sadly come too late for Dylan, we hope that it means another family doesn’t have to go through similar heartache.”

A spokesman for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, which runs the Grange Hospital, said: “We are truly heartbroken and our thoughts and deepest sympathies remain with Dylan’s parents and his whole family.

“No parent should have to go through losing a child in such circumstances. We are all truly devastated.

“Senior members of the health board have met with the family in person to apologise for the tragic circumstances leading to the loss of their beloved son.

“The health board fully recognise that no apology will ever make up for the pain and suffering the family have experienced in losing Dylan.

“Dylan’s tragic death was as a result of an organisational system failure that occurred in a department whilst under extreme pressure, with twice the number of patients normally attending, and was not attributable to any individual member of staff.

“The health board takes full responsibility for what happened to Dylan. We are deeply sorry and remain fully committed to supporting the family in any way we can.”