There were “serious failures” in the treatment a baby girl who died at a children’s hospital following open heart surgery, a coroner said yesterday.
Hayley Fullerton died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital one month after her first birthday after undergoing corrective surgery for a heart condition. She died on November 11, 2009, 12 days after being transferred from the intensive care unit to a general ward.
Her mother Paula Stevenson, who flew to the UK from Australia to attend yesterday’s hearing with Hayley’s father Bobby Fullerton, has raised concerns about the care given to her baby.
Recording a narrative verdict at the end of the inquest into Hayley’s death, Aidan Cotter, coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, said: “The failures by a number of the staff at Birmingham Children’s Hospital were serious but not gross.” But speaking afterwards, Ms Stevenson called the staff at the hospital “bullies, cowards and hypocrites” and said Hayley’s death was “preventable”.
Ms Stevenson, 40, told the inquest during an earlier hearing that she believed her daughter, who was born in Northern Ireland on October 6, 2008, with a heart defect and a hole in the heart, could have lived if staff at Birmingham Children’s Hospital had listened to her concerns.
The court heard that Hayley underwent palliative surgery at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast weeks after she was born. She was then flown to Birmingham Children’s Hospital for corrective heart surgery on October 14, 2009.
Ms Stevenson, who is from Northern Ireland but now lives on Australia’s Gold Coast, said the operation was a success and Hayley was transferred to the hospital’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, where she spent 17 days before being moved on to a normal ward.
On November 9 an X-ray revealed that Hayley’s right lung had collapsed. She was given physiotherapy the following day but on the morning of November 11 both lungs collapsed and she went into cardiac arrest. She was pronounced dead after a team of doctors spent 20 minutes trying to save her, the inquest heard.
During the hearing, Ms Stevenson said her child had been failed “abominably” by medical staff on ward 11, describing her experience as “brutal”. She said staff at the hospital neglected Hayley, “dumped” her at the end of a ward and ignored the family’s concerns about her breathing as she recovered from her surgery.
Speaking after the inquest at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, Hayley’s mother said she believed her “beautiful little girl” would still be alive if staff had come to her aid sooner. She now plans to sue the trust which runs the hospital.
In an internal review of Hayley’s death, the NHS found that a “hierarchy” among medics deterred junior staff from referring Hayley back to a paediatric intensive care unit in the days before she died.