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Mother tells how son, 4, died after ‘rude and abrupt’ NHS 111 operator missed deadly signs

A mother has told how her son died after a ‘rude and abrupt’ NHS 111 operator failed to spot that the four-year-old’s sudden rash and shortness of breath meant he was dangerously ill.

Sherry Keane, from Liverpool, rang the health advice line in the middle of the night as she was so worried about Jaydan-Lee, who was also vomiting and lethargic.

But the call handler failed to spot the deadly signs or call an ambulance and the little boy died the next day from meningococcal septicaemia.

An investigation concluded Jaydan-Lee would have made a full recovery had his mother received the right medical advice in June 2016.

In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Ms Keane, 27, said she was furious the female call handler who was not medically trained was still working for 111. 

‘It’s disgusting that she has been given a second chance,’ she said. ‘My little boy hasn’t got a second chance – he’s not here because she didn’t do her job properly. 

‘She was rude, and didn’t seem to care about my son or his condition. She talked over me, kept interrupting and was dismissive as if she just wanted the call to end.

‘I was in a state, totally freaked out and worried about my little boy and her manner made me feel like I was a paranoid mother who shouldn’t be wasting her time.

‘She didn’t listen to me – if she had my little boy would still be here today.’ 

Ms Keane, who was awarded £15,000 compensation after the North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust admitted medical negligence, is now suing for further damages.

‘No amount of money can bring my little boy back,’ she said. ‘But the trust has changed its policy and now the call handlers have to be medically trained. 

‘It’s too late for my little boy, but I hope my actions will stop another family having to go through what I had to.’

Jaydan-Lee began to feel unwell after bumping his head at a bus stop as he travelled home from visiting his grandmother with Ms Keane.

‘He was a boisterous little boy and was looking around as we waited for the bus and turned and bumped his head,’ his mother said. 

‘There wasn’t a lump or cut on his forehead, just a little red mark, so I wasn’t worried.’ 

He seemed to recover but the next afternoon he began to feel unwell, falling asleep as he watched TV. 

When he woke he had a runny nose, a ‘raspy’ sounding chest and his mother presumed he was coming down with a cold. 

‘I gave him some Calpol but as I was taking him upstairs, he was sick, and I put him to bed and kept an eye on him,’ she said.

‘Later he developed a temperature and wanted to cuddle. I stripped him down to a vest and underwear and gave him some juice.’

Ms Keane, who works for mobile operator 3, became worried when she noticed a blotchy rash on his legs and called 111 just after midnight on 13 June 2016.

Jaydan-Lee was groaning in the background as she told the operator he had vomited, had a rash, was sleepy and fighting to breathe. 

When she tried to tell the handler about his high temperature and that his back was cold, the operator talked over her.

An internal investigation found that at the end of the nine-minute call, the handler failed to identify that Jaydan-Lee needed urgent treatment and didn’t send for an ambulance. 

She also didn’t make sure that his mother had understood that she should take her little boy to hospital.

An ambulance wasn’t called until the following lunchtime when Jaydan-Lee – who his mother thought was asleep – became unresponsive. 

He’d had a cardiac arrest bought on by septic shock caused by meningococcal bacteria, possibly triggered by the bump on his head at the bus stop.

Describing the horrific attempts to save his life, Ms Keane said: ‘In the ambulance a paramedic was still doing chest compressions but after a while at the hospital the doctor asked me if I wanted them to stop. 

‘I told them as a mother I never wanted them to give up but if it wasn’t going to bring my baby back, I wanted them to stop pounding on his little chest.

‘I just couldn’t believe that my little boy had been running around the day before, asking for his juice and wanting to play outside and now he was dead. I began screaming but no noise came out.’

At an inquest into his death, recording a narrative verdict, the coroner said: ‘During this consultation, the adviser failed to identity, explore and action several red flags. 

‘She failed to probe and access the information required in order to complete a proper assessment. It was quite evident the adviser did not listen and question effectively.

‘If appropriate questioning and probing was carried out it is likely the consultation would have resulted in an ambulance being called with a red 2 response time of eight minutes.’ 

Dr Parviz Habibi PHd, a former consultant in paediatric intensive care and respiratory medicine at St Mary’s Hospital, concluded that if a ‘proper assessment’ by the 111 caller had been carried out and an ambulance called or the mother had taken Jaydan-Lee to hospital he would have survived.

The 111 handler kept her job and was paid while she was given extra training and then re-instated. 

A spokeswoman for North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) said it was ‘so very sorry’ for his death. 

‘A full investigation was undertaken following Jaydan-Lee’s death which did identify areas of learning for the trust and improvements have since been made.

‘On this occasion, we fell below the standards that we expect and we are deeply sorry.’

Ms Keane said although she now knew the truth, the pain was still raw: ‘It doesn’t stop me grieving for my baby every single day. His illness didn’t kill him – that 111 handler’s failure to call him an ambulance did. 

‘I wish I’d trusted my mother’s instincts and taken him straight to A & E, but I didn’t and now I have to pay the price of losing my little boy. 

‘Jaydan-Lee isn’t here and so I have to tell this story. I’m his voice and I need to make sure that other families don’t go through anything like this.’

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