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Police probe launched after boy dies at 'hospital to the stars'

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 4/03/2017 Ross Lydall
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Police are investigating the death of a boy aged seven after an operation at the UK’s biggest private children’s hospital, the Standard can reveal.

Patient James Dwerryhouse suffered a catastrophic brain injury at the Portland Hospital as a result of cardiac arrest after equipment monitoring his breathing was turned off for almost three hours overnight.

He died in a hospice when life support was withdrawn the following day.

His parents Marguerite and John today spoke publicly for the first time about James’s death last August as they launched legal action against hospital owners HCA Healthcare.

The hospital in Great Portland Street was where Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie were born. Celebrities including Victoria Beckham, Liz Hurley and Claudia Schiffer have also chosen it for childbirth.

James had been admitted for a routine operation on his bowel on August 25 and was recovering in intensive care.

He had enjoyed a FaceTime session with his brothers and sisters from his hospital bed and was in “good spirits” when his father left him in the early hours. A serious incident report drawn up by the hospital reveals that monitoring equipment was switched off at 1.15am and not turned back on until nearly 4am, by which time James had suffered cardiac arrest.

He had sleep apnoea — potentially life-threatening interruptions in breathing while asleep — and was found unresponsive by night staff.

Mrs Dwerryhouse said: “It has been heart-breaking. James had health issues and needed a lot of health support in his life but he was full of life, cheeky, funny, happy and occasionally mischievous, like all little boys.

“Only days earlier he’d been to summer club — chasing around, up and down slides, having a great time.

“He wasn’t a fragile boy at all, he wasn’t poorly and he certainly wasn’t a boy who was at risk of dying. This was a routine operation, which had been a complete success.

“We still don’t know the full truth. We know the police have been looking into the matter and now we also have solicitors acting on our behalf, so hopefully we will get there in the end. We need to for James.

“Till now we’ve been very quiet and even people close to us have been unaware of how James was let down and why he died. People need to know, though, and we need to know exactly what happened that night.”

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According to the serious incident report, nursing staff removed the monitoring equipment without consulting senior colleagues.

CCTV footage suggests that staff, who were looking after six children on the unit, took longer breaks than were permitted, the report claims.

It says they failed to document properly their observations of James, turned off alarms when reconnecting his monitoring equipment and may have taken 20 minutes to summon a resuscitation “crash” team.

The cause of death, it adds, “appears to be the removal of vital signs monitoring between 1.15am and 3.58am, as this resulted in the inability to be alerted to a suspected deterioration in the child’s respiratory condition and reducing oxygen saturations”.

The report addressed claims the family had asked for the monitoring equipment to be removed — which they deny — stating that in all cases “the patient’s clinical needs remain priority above parental wishes”.

The Westminster coroner is awaiting the outcome of the police investigation before holding an inquest.

Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp, from Hudgell solicitors, said there had been a “totally unacceptable” lack of clarity about what happened.

She added: “What cannot be disputed in this case is that a huge, unforgivable error was made in that James’s monitoring equipment was turned off when it should have remained on at all times. Had the equipment remained on, no matter what other things were happening that night on the intensive care unit, staff would have been immediately alerted to any danger.

“The unit was not understaffed or over capacity, therefore there seems to be no excuse for what happened.

“To leave a child who is in the intensive care unit because he has a known condition such as sleep apnoea un- monitored is almost beyond belief.”

Portland Hospital said: “We send our deepest sympathy to the family of James Dwerryhouse. We are cooperating with all investigations and we are unable to comment further until they are completed.”

Scotland Yard said: “Officers were called to a central London hospital after the death of a boy aged seven. Westminster CID are undertaking inquiries on behalf of the coroner.”

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