Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Meningitis symptoms still go unrecognised

The sad death of a 13 year old boy in Wales last year highlights a continuing failure to recognise and react to the symptoms of meningitis.

Thomas Smith was admitted to Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, with meningitis symptoms whilst on holiday.

Following a GP referral he was fast-tracked by nurses who were alert to the seriousness of his condition. Unfortunately two doctors who were responsible for his care, one a consultant paediatrician, were less aware of the risks. They both prescribed paracetamol not antibiotics.

By the time antibiotics were prescribed four hours later, it was too late and nothing could be done to save Thomas.

The Cardiff Coroner is reported as finding that “The failure to administer antibiotics does amount to a gross failure of care. Antibiotics should have been given without delay. Where meningitis is suspected it is essential antibiotics are given immediately. The need for basic medical attention in this form was obvious. The risk of giving unnecessary medication was outweighed by the risk of Thomas having bacterial meningitis.”

Coroner Christopher Woolley has ordered an investigation to prevent similar deaths taking place at Prince Charles Hospital.

Chief executive of Cwm Taf University Health Board Allison Williams apologised in a statement to Thomas’ parents and admitted there were failings.

“A number of changes have already been made to address the failings identified, following the conclusion of the inquest, the health board will now consider the coroner’s findings and continue to implement the changes required to address any failings in service.”

If you have experienced problems arising out of a failure to diagnose or treat meningitis, the Clarke Willmott clinical negligence team may be able to assist you in finding answers to your questions.