Parents awarded damages following legal challenge

The parents of a 2-year-old girl who died in December 2013, have been awarded damages of £15,000 after a legal challenge to determine how she died.

Keira Lee’s parents Tim and Kirsty, were forced to take legal action after their questions into their daughter’s death remained unanswered and concerns around her diagnosis and treatment whilst in hospital were dismissed.

Keira was diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2013. She underwent operations to reduce the swelling in her brain and to debulk the tumour, despite these procedures Keira died on 5 December 2013 aged 28 months.

An Inquest into her death heard that Keira had a history of gagging and vomiting for around 3 months prior to receiving the diagnosis of brain tumour and had displayed key symptoms including facial weakness and dilated pupils that ought to have been recognised by any medical professionals as symptoms of a brain tumour.

The Inquest heard that both Keira’s treating otolaryngologist and paediatrician failed to pick up on the key symptoms and did not perform a neurological examination.

They both accepted that had they done a simple 15-minute examination they would have subsequently requested a brain scan.

Both the Consultant Paediatrician and Consultant Otolaryngologist admitted that they were at the time unaware of the guidelines produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) on childhood brain tumours. Had they considered the guidelines, even the Quick Reference Guidance, they would have been made aware that if a child presents with persisting nausea and/or vomiting a brain tumour should be considered.

The Coroner, Dr Harris, found that the failure of the paediatrician, to refer Keira for a scan or to a neurologist, contributed to her death.

The Inquest also heard that the standard of care provided to Keira in recovery at Kings College Hospital was inadequate.

Whilst by this point it was too late to have made a difference to Keira’s outcome, Dr Harris raised serious concerns regarding deficiencies in postoperative care and the lack of paediatric training of nurses in the recovery ward.

Dr Harris consequently reported these concerns to the Chief Executive at Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and submitted that action should be taken to prevent future deaths.

The Trust’s response recognises the inadequacies in recovery and confirms that steps have already been taken to address the need for paediatric nursing in recovery. The RCPCH also responded to confirm that they shared the Coroner’s concerns.

In addition they addressed concerns as to the failure to refer Keira for a scan, making reference to their report (prepared jointly with the National Children’s Bureau) which recommends that all frontline health professionals involved in the assessment of children should utilise online diagnostic resources.

Keira’s parents founded LoveUKeira in memory of their daughter.

The charity raises funds for awareness and research into childhood brain tumours and has restored three vintage tractors, one lovingly painted pink in honour of Keira, which were driven on a 700-mile journey around the South West of England starting in Crawley and finished at the Rudgwick Country Show on 31 August.

The LoveUKeira Tractor Road Trip team have so far raised over £3000 for The Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham and are still welcoming donations here.

Fiona Huddleston, from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, who represented Keira’s parents said:

“Keira’s parents, as do all those who suspect they or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence, had to prove what had happened to their daughter.

“The investigation prior to the inquest was extensive and involved a number of medical and legal experts. Both Tim and Kirsty are pleased that they took this legal action to ensure that the Coroner had all the facts at the inquest.

“The financial compensation is minor compared to the fact that their serious concerns around Keira’s diagnosis, as well as deficiencies in postoperative care and the lack of paediatric training of nurses in the recovery ward of Kings College, were addressed, prompting the Coroner to make a recommendation to prevent future deaths.

“We hope that these lessons, which would never have come to light without this legal action, have been learned by the Trust and the wider healthcare community.”