Hospital under fire after error details withheld

ATTEMPTS to cover up a blunder at Eastbourne DGH have been exposed during an investigation into a baby’s death.

A coroner criticised hospital officials for withholding vital information from him in their reports of baby Jacob Anscombe’s death at an inquest on Thursday (March 10).

He was just hours old when a doctor gave him the wrong injection following a heart attack.

He died early next morning on October 21.

The NHS trust which runs the DGH has been forced to apologise for hindering the inquest.

When coroner Alan Craze began his inquiries he discovered witness statements had been altered and mentions of the blunders had been erased.

Mr Craze said he was not holding the inquest because he believed the drug mix-up killed Jacob, but because he believed the error had been deliberately withheld.

At the inquest at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court, he said, “There needs to be 100 per cent trust between an NHS trust and a coroner and with this inquest we’re in danger of losing it and that concerns me considerably.

“If a decision has been made to withhold information it was incredibly short-sighted and embarrassing for the trust.”

Jacob was born with an undetected heart defect and suffered a heart attack half an hour into his life.

He was rushed to the Specialist Baby Unit for resuscitation but a nurse wrongly left a bag of anti-blood-clotting drugs labelled as saline and this was mistakenly given to Jacob.

Nurse Joyce Atassem said she was disturbed by a noise in a neighbouring room and went to investigate. This is when the error occurred.

When hospital staff realised their mistake they flagged up the error with doctors.

But Jacob’s condition deteriorated and he was pronounced dead at 3am.

Mr Craze queried why the injection had not been mentioned by paediatrician John Mitchell, who was on call that night, when the coroner made his inquiries into Jacob’s death some weeks later.

Dr Mitchell admitted, “It was an omission on my part.”

Mr Craze then pointed to evidence made by paediatrician Dr Edward Yates which had been ‘altered’ so a paragraph containing his ‘concerns’ about the incident had been removed.

The missing paragraph by Dr Yates listed worries including the fact paediatricians had not been alerted soon enough by the midwives.

A trust spokesman said, “We would like to offer our condolences to the parents, family and friends of Jacob Anscombe.

“As the inquest heard the drugs given to baby Jacob after his birth had no influence on the tragic outcome of this case.

“However, it is very regrettable we did not make the coroner aware of issues regarding the fluid containing a drug administered to Jacob immediately after his death.

“We will do everything it can to avoid any similar occurrence with regard to information pertaining to any inquest the coroner may hold.”

Mr Craze recorded the verdict of death by natural causes after suffering from a rare congenital heart malformation.