Doctor who treated Northampton toddler who later died of dehydration facing misconduct hearing

Harry Connolly NNL-140508-154849001
Harry Connolly NNL-140508-154849001

A doctor who treated a 19-month-old boy from Northampton who was discharged from hospital three days before he died of dehydration is facing allegations of misconduct at a fitness to practise hearing this week.

Dr Tasnim Arif was one of the doctors that treated Harry Connolly when he was admitted to Northampton General Hospital three years ago.

Raymond and Lucy Connolly, the parents of Harry Connolly, who died in May last year. ENGNNL00120121104190005

Raymond and Lucy Connolly, the parents of Harry Connolly, who died in May last year. ENGNNL00120121104190005

Giving evidence at the hearing on Tuesday, Harry’s mother Lucy said she was shocked by the lack of support from Dr Tasnim Arif when baby Harry was admitted to the hospital on April 28, 2011.

It is alleged that, despite Mrs Connelly’s concerns over her son’s lethargy, diarrhoea and vomiting, the paediatrician said the child was not dehydrated and told them to go home.

Mrs Connelly said: “At the end of the day, I have taken my son to the hospital for four days on the trot, to the same ward, for them to do nothing.

“I have presented a really sick child to four doctors and they have all told me he has got a virus, he will be fine.

“The last doctor, Dr Arif, told me he was not dehydrated. I was just a mother with a sick child. You put your trust in these doctors.

“She didn’t want to listen to me and what I was telling her, because what I was telling her was my child is really sick.

“Why would you ignore a mother telling you that? I don’t understand it.”

Dad Raymond found Harry dead in his cot three days later in the early hours of May 1, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service heard.

The post-mortem concluded he had died of dehydration and kidney failure.

At an inquest in 2012 Coroner Anne Pember catalogued a series of ‘failings’ by doctors and nurses at the hospital and a GP’s out-of-hours service.

The tribunal heard that Harry fell ill on April 23 and was referred to hospital by the family GP on April 26.

The boy was examined by paediatrician Dr Farhana Shamim, who said he was not dehydrated, and discharged the following morning by Dr Ayevbekpen Omorgie, who said the parents could have a ‘48-hour open access’ to the ward, meaning he would not need a referral to be seen again.

At around 3.30pm on 28 April Harry was brought back to hospital by his mother, after his parents felt he was not getting any better, and seen by Dr Arif.

Mrs Connelly described the doctor as ‘extremely difficult, cold, hard-hearted and uninterested’ and said she was ‘shocked at the lack of support’ offered to her son.

She said: “I was getting quite cross and upset, I felt Harry needed further support and it was quite clear we weren’t going to get it - not from Dr Arif anyway,

“I was not shouting because I would never shout at a doctor. My voice was raised. It would have been clear I was quite upset and annoyed at the fact she seemed to be very blasé about Harry.

“The problem I have and most people have is that when a doctor tells you something you believe them.

“You put your trust in a doctor. I didn’t for one moment think a doctor on a paediatric ward, in a hospital would be telling me incorrect information.’

Dr Arif discharged Harry at around 5.45pm on the afternoon of April 28.

Mrs Connolly said: “I was left at home wringing my hands. I didn’t feel I could go back there because they were just going to tell me the same thing.”

The next day grandmother Val Faulkner rang the hospital but was told by a nurse they should take the toddler to their GP or accident and emergency if his condition was deteriorating.

The failure was described as ‘catastrophic’ by the coroner and Mrs Connelly said she was not told by Dr Arif that the ‘open access’ period had been extended.

After phoning the GP out-of-hours service, the family spoke to Dr Mary McCracken who said they should bring him in to the out-of-hours service as he may be suffering from dehydration.

At the out of hours service, Harry was examined by Dr Aboo Thamby who assessed that he was not dehydrated and did not need to be readmitted to NGH.

By April 30 Harry’s parents reported that he was ‘brighter’ but his fingers and toes were very cold.

He was found dead by his father early the next morning.

Dr Arif is accused of professional misconduct for treatment that allegedly fell ‘seriously below’ the expected standard.

It is alleged that the doctor failed to fully record that Harry was still passing blood in his stool, that he had not eaten for five days or that he was lethargic, as Mrs Connelly had told her.

Dr Arif, who was then a fourth-year specialist trainee paediatric registrar, has admitted that she failed to record how often Harry was passing stool and vomiting and did not ask for further clarity on the subject.

The medic also confessed to not comparing his current weight to his weight when he was previously discharged on April 27.

But she denies failing to adequately assess or record a number of clinical features when assessing the baby’s hydration status, including the overall summary of ‘well hydrated’ or ‘not well hydrated’.

Dr Arif is further accused of failing to arrange a longer assessment period, not arranging the duty consultant to review Harry’s clinical status and failing to arrange for blood tests, as the consultant had asked.

Andrew Hockton, defending, apologised on Tuesday to Mrs Connelly on Dr Arif’s behalf for her ‘shortcomings’ in Harry’s care.

He said: “I would like to start by offering Dr Arif’s apology to you and your family for shortcomings in relation to her management of Harry and her condolences to you and the family.”

If the three-person panel finds against her she could face sanctions including restrictions on her practise, suspension or being struck off the medical register.

The hearing continues.