Surgeons at the children’s hospital where a one-year-old boy died following delays to urgent surgery have said his death was avoidable and operation waiting lists had reached dangerous lengths.
Kayden Urmston-Bancroft died at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH) last April, a week after he fell at home and hit his mouth on his bottle, reported the BBC.
A&E staff at a hospital near Stockport discovered a hole in the 20-month-old’s diaphragm, believed to have been there since birth and through which his bowels and stomach had entered his chest.
Kayden was transferred to RMCH the next day for an urgent operation to mend the hernia – but this was delayed repeatedly over three days, his family said.
The toddler had a heart attack and died two days later after suffering severe brain injury.
“We just worry how many more children must die before management is held to account and before the right changes are made,” Basem Khalil, a surgeon at the hospital, told the broadcaster.
Dr Khalil said bosses had given targets for waiting lists priority over emergency operations, adding a surgeon who had offered to cancel elective surgery to see Kayden sooner had not been given the support to do so.
“The waiting list in the children's hospital has basically ballooned over the last few years. We now have hundreds of children who have waited over a year to have their surgery done,” he said.
“They were giving elective cases priority, but it almost became like a culture, that it is difficult to cancel elective cases to do emergency cases.”
RMCH said they had “failed” Kayden, who died in his mother’s arms when his life support machine was turned off.
“Royal Manchester Children's Hospital faces huge demands for its services and occasionally failings regrettably do occur,” said Central Manchester University Hospitals Trust.
“We believe that there are sufficient theatres in our children's hospital to cope with the demand for emergency cases; however, on occasions some children do have to wait for urgent surgery while emergency surgery takes place.”
The hospital trust has apologised to Kayden's family, following his death on 17 April 2016, and recently settled a legal case brought against them by the family for an undisclosed, five-figure sum.
His grandmother Julie Rowlands, a 44-year-old care coordinator for the elderly who lives with her daughter in Stockport, said Kayden’s care was “appalling.”
“All we were ever told was that other emergencies were coming in and taking Kayden's place. We felt like he was just being left and he was in so much pain, we couldn't leave his side,” she said.
“We were begging them to transfer him to somewhere that could do the operation, but they told us it wasn't as easy as that. I said if they didn't then something would happen.
“After his cardiac arrest the doctors tried to bring him round, but he was without oxygen for almost half an hour. They took him to theatre, but I knew it was too late.
“It was four-and-a-half hours before they brought him back and they apologised there and then and said as a hospital they had failed him.”
It is thought Kayden’s cardiac arrest was caused by the organs squashed in his chest, putting too much pressure on his heart.
Basem Khalil, a surgeon, says he warned hospital bosses about the problem before the boy's death.
He told the BBC: “The hospital did not take any substantive actions with regard to the warnings that were given by myself or my colleagues.
“I feel children are being let down… and now a child is dead and I think that is completely unacceptable.”
James Moorecroft, a retired surgeon at the same hospital, said he wrote to the medical director saying children's surgical services were unsafe – but did not get a reply.
Stephen Clarkson, a clinical negligence specialist from Slater and Gordon, who represented the family, said: “The real tragedy here is that Kayden's death was entirely preventable. If he had been operated on earlier then he would have survived.”
Additional reporting from Press Association