Mail on Line By STEPHEN ADAMS and CHARLES YATES FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY |
- Benjamin Condon died at just eight-weeks-old in April last year
- Parents originally told that he had died of a cold-like infection
- But doctors later admitted he could have been given antibiotics
- New report vindicates Mail on Sunday investigation into Ben’s death
A hospital where senior staff plotted to delete a tape recording in which they admitted appalling errors were made over a baby’s death has been heavily criticised in a damning report.
Bosses at the Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital ‘failed to get a grip of the real issues’ after a consultant and senior manager were caught trying to wipe the recording, said investigators.
The Mail on Sunday exposed the scandal last December, after being alerted to it by the parents of tragic baby Benjamin Condon.
Tragic: Ben Condon died at just eight-weeks-old last April and hospital bosses have been accused of a string of errors in his death
His grieving parents Allyn and Jenny Condon were determined to understand what factors led to their beloved baby son’s death
Now, an independent report, commissioned by hospital bosses, has concluded ‘there was a failure’ by management ‘to recognise one of the most serious allegations being made by the parents – why a clinician would want a conversation deleted and why a senior manager would agree to do it’.
It found University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust ‘failed to provide Ben’s family with clear answers to a number of questions’ and ‘appeared to lose sight of the fact that this was a grieving family’.
Consultancy firm Verita said it had ‘not seen conclusive evidence to prove or disprove the charge of a conspiracy to cover up what happened to Ben’. But it commented that ‘little the trust did was well directed at disproving’ the existence of a conspiracy.
Manager Julie Vass (left) and Dr Paul Mannix (right) met with Ben’s parents following his death to discuss what happened
Nothing can replace a lost child, but Jenny and Allyn Condon were finally able to celebrate again earlier this year with the birth of a boy, Raffi.
Jenny, who has suffered many miscarriages, gave birth to him ten weeks early at Southmead Hospital in Bristol after intensive monitoring by doctors. Their son is now four-and-a-half months old and doing well.
‘Raffi is a lovely, laughy baby – all smiles,’ said Allyn. Jenny said his birth, which came almost exactly a year after Ben was born, had brought back painful memories. She added: ‘I found myself reliving every moment, watching everything constantly, and expecting something to go wrong.’
Last night, Ben’s father Allyn, 41, said: ‘This report vindicates what my wife Jenny and I have been saying all along. We would like to thank the MoS, because without its coverage, it is unlikely this external investigation would have taken place.’
After Ben died last April, at eight weeks old, the couple were first told he had succumbed to a cold-like viral infection. But two months later, doctors revealed he had also contracted a more virulent bacterial infection, which could have been prevented with timely antibiotics. They incorrectly told them this infection, pseudomonas, was only identified after Ben died.
Unhappy with the care Ben received, the couple scoured his medical notes. At a meeting last July, they put it to doctors that staff had missed chances to spot the infection and treat him.
The meeting was openly recorded by both sides. During a break, the Condons left the room and the NHS representatives forgot they were being recorded. Neonatologist Dr Paul Mannix candidly told intensive care consultant Dr Margrid Schindler: ‘Margrid, they are absolutely right… these are not misinformed bolshy parents.’ Dr Schindler responded: ‘They’ve got a point.’
She then realised their own recorder was still taping and asked manager Julie Vass if there was ‘any possibility of taking off’ the last section ‘because that could get us into difficulty’. Mrs Vass agreed.
But moments later, Dr Mannix spotted the Condons’ own iPhone was recording too, so they left both machines running. Covering the microphone, Dr Mannix then said he ‘struggled to see’ why Ben did not get antibiotics three days before he died.
Dr Schindler was heading Ben’s child death review at the time while Dr Mannix, who works elsewhere, had been acting as the Condons’ representative. When the couple returned he alerted them to ‘extra stuff’ on their tape.
Trust chief executive Robert Woolley said: ‘We accept the report’s findings in full. We are saddened we missed too many opportunities to proactively engage with Ben’s parents. We apologise to them unreservedly.’
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