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Girl suffering asthma attack died after turned away by GP

Ellie-May Clark was having a severe asthma attack when she arrived 10 minutes late with her mother Shanice at The Grange Clinic, in Newport, Wales

A five-year-old girl died after being turned away by an NHS doctor because she was 10 minutes late for an appointment, an inquest heard.

Ellie-May Clark was having a severe asthma attack when she arrived  at The Grange Clinic, in Newport, South Wales, with her mother Shanice.

But Dr Joanne Rowe, 54, refused to see the youngster, sending her home without even looking at medical records.

Ellie May’s computer records stated she was in danger of having a life-threatening asthma attack and had been previously admitted to intensive care.

The little girl was left in tears outside the surgery and asked her worried mother: ‘Why won’t the doctor see me, mummy?’

Ms Clar, 26, put her daughter to bed when they got home and planned to take her back to the GP the next day.

But she found Ellie-May not breathing at 10.30pm. An ambulance was called but doctors could not save her.

Ellie-May died of a severe asthma attack brought on by a viral infection on January 26, 2015.

Dr Rowe yesterday admitted to the hearing it was ‘not acceptable’ to send the family away without even checking Ellie-May’s medical notes first.

Single-mother Ms Clark told the inquest how she was refused a home visit after Ellie-May suffered a severe asthma attack at school.

Instead, the mother, who also had an eight-week old baby, was given 25 minutes to get to the surgery for an emergency appointment with Dr Rowe at 5pm.

She told the inquest: ‘I told the receptionist I was going to be late, I had to get someone to look after my baby.

Dr Joanne Rowe

Ellie-May Clark

Dr Joanne Rowe (left, arriving at the Newport inquest), 54, refused to see Ellie-May Clark (right), sending her home without even looking at her medical records

‘I was five minutes late – there was someone in front of me in the queue and the receptionist was on the phone.

‘I said to the receptionist I could not have got there any earlier but when she rang through to the doctor I was told I’d have to bring Ellie-May back in the morning.

‘She apologised to me – I was angry and upset.’

The inquest heard Ms Clark was not given medical advice for Ellie-May’s asthma which she had suffered from since the age of two.

The family spoke to receptionist Ann Jones at the surgery between 5.10pm and 5.18pm on January 26.

Mrs Jones said: ‘I rang through and Dr Rowe said she would not see her. I can remember apologising profusely to Shanice who was very sad when I told her.

Ellie-May Clark’s mother Shanice Clark arrives at the inquest into her death in Newport, South Wales

‘I didn’t challenge the decision, I am a receptionist, they are the doctors. It’s their call.’

The Grange surgery, operated a rule where patients would be asked to book an appointment the next day if they were 10 minutes late.

But the rule only applied to routine appointments and Mrs Jones said she never turned away an emergency during her four years at the surgery.

The former receptionist, who has since left her job, added: ‘I found it difficult to turn away a child in need of an emergency appointment.

‘We were always told you should ever turn away children and the elderly.

‘Some doctors would never turn anyone away, others would.’

The inquest heard Dr Rowe made an entry in the surgery records saying Ms Clark and Ellie-May did not attend their appointment.

It was amended by Mrs Jones to say the mother and daughter had arrived at the surgery but were not seen due to arriving late.

Dr Rowe, a GP at the surgery for 22 years, said she was with another patient when the receptionist phoned through to say Ellie-May had arrived.

She told the hearing in Newport: ‘It was not acceptable that I sent her away.

‘I should have got the duty doctor to see her.’

Dr Rowe, who was given a reprimand by the General medical Council, admitted she would have made a different decision if she knew Ellie-May was having an asthma attack.

Ellie May's computer records at The Grange Surgery (pictured) stated she was in danger of having a life-threatening asthma attack and had been previously admitted to intensive care

Ellie May’s computer records at The Grange Surgery (pictured) stated she was in danger of having a life-threatening asthma attack and had been previously admitted to intensive care

The family’s solicitor Rob Sowersby asked Dr Rowe, the surgery’s lead doctor for child welfare: ‘You didn’t open Ellie-May’s records?’

The doctor replied: ‘No, I would not be able to open them while I was with another patient.

‘I didn’t open the records, I don’t know why.

Mr Sowersby asked: ‘You made a decision not so see Ellie-May, what clinical information was that based on?’

Dr Rowe, now a GP in Cardiff, replied: ‘It wasn’t.’

Mr Sowersby told the inquest: ‘Dr Rowe sent away a five-year-old patient from an emergency appointment without even opening her records.

‘She didn’t ask any questions. She agrees she could have put notes about her life-threatening condition prominently on her records.’ 

The inquest continues. 

 



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