GP’s ‘inaction’ lost chance to save tot’s life

Harry Connolly
Harry Connolly

A mother has said it is “disgraceful” that a doctor who failed to properly examine her 19-month-son two days before he died has only been given a warning by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Lucy Connolly, of Parkfield Avenue, Delapre, took her son Harry into the out-of-hours service in Northampton on April 29, 2011, after he had been suffering from severe diarrhoea and vomiting.

Harry, who had already been admitted to Northampton General Hospital twice in the previous six days, was seen by Dr Aboo Thamby, a GP at Kingsthorpe Medical Centre, who was working a shift at the NHS out-of-hours service based in Cliftonville Road.

Despite the fact Mrs Connolly said her child was lifeless and unresponsive, Dr Thamby decided Harry did not need to be admitted to hospital and told his parents to get him to eat some rice and yogurt.

Two days later Harry was found dead in his bed by his father.

Post mortem tests showed he died of dehydration and acute kidney failure after suffering from an inflammation of the colon.

Mrs Connolly and her husband Ray reported Dr Thamby to the GMC and an investigation has concluded that the doctor “failed to put himself in a position to make an adequate diagnosis by either examining the patient or by eliciting and acting upon an appropriate history”.

The GMC ruling states: “In the case of baby Harry Connolly his inaction meant that an opportunity to save the child was lost.”

At an inquest into Harry’s death last year, county coroner Anne Pember recorded a narrative verdict and catalogued a series of “failures” and “catastrophic” errors made by the doctors and nurses who treated Harry.

Mrs Pember said “windows of opportunity to treat Harry were lost”.

Mrs Connolly said: “I think it is disgraceful. I don’t see how giving him a warning makes any difference.

“He gave me the wrong medical advice and did not examine Harry properly.

“Since the day Harry died he has been allowed to continue working as a GP. He has never apologised to us,” she added.

During the inquest, Dr Thamby defended his original decision over his treatment of Harry but Mrs Connolly 
was critical of the evidence given.

Mrs Connolly said: “Nobody seems to be held accountable for the “catastrophic” errors which were highlighted by the coroner.”

The GMC ruling against Dr Thamby also makes reference to a Patient B who he “failed to take an adequate history or arrange for an examination. The ruling states Dr Thamby gave advice on pain relief on the basis of an “inadequate diagnosis” and the next day the patient was admitted to hospital requiring emergency surgery for a gangrenous appendix.

A spokesman for the Northamptonshire out-of-hours service said Dr Thamby no longer worked any shifts there.

Pauline Norman, practice manager of Kingsthorpe Medical Centre, said Dr Thamby still worked at the practice and would “continue to do so”.

The medical centre declined to comment any further and did not provide an opportunity to speak to Dr Thamby directly.

Doctor has kept licence to practise

Dr Thamby has kept his doctor’s licence although a ‘warning’ has been posted on the General Medical Council’s website.

In Harry Connolly’s case, an independent expert ruled Dr Thamby’s standard of care fell “below the expected level of a competent GP” and concluded that there had been a “significant departure from good medical practice”.

But Dr Thamby has been allowed to keep his doctor’s licence as the doctor’s actions were “not considered to be seriously below the level to be expected”.

The warning, which has been accepted by Dr Thamby, will be published on the 
GMC website until 2018. But it will be kept on his record and disclosed to employers on request indefinitely.

The warning states: “On April 29, 2011, you undertook an out-of-hours consultation with a 19-month-old child and his parents. The patient was suffering from diarrhoea, lethargy and failure to feed. You failed to examine the patient adequately and to arrange hospital admission. You offered inadequate safety netting advice to the parents. Two days later, the patient sadly died of dehydration and acute renal failure as a consequence of acute proctocolitis and adenovirus infection.

“This conduct does not meet with the standards required of a doctor. It risks bringing the profession into disrepute and it must not be repeated. The required standards are set out in Good Medical Practice and associated guidance.

“Whilst these failings in themselves are not so serious as to require any restrictions on your registration, it is necessary in response to issue this formal warning”.

At the inquest hearing in April last year, Dr Aboo Thamby, said he believed Harry was “very lethargic” and was “conscious but responsive”. Dr Thamby said the child was “not active” but he would not expect a child who had not eaten for days to be active. “I did not think he was dehydrated as he had wet nappies,” he said. Dr Thamby said there would be “no need” to readmit Harry if he had wet nappies.

He said: “I did to my knowledge a through examiniation and documented it to the best of my knowledge.”

Complaint had been made 18 months prior

A complaint had been made to the GMC about Dr Thamby 18 months before he failed to examine Harry Connolly properly.

Linda Davis, 67, of Cogenhoe, complained to the GMC in September 2009 after Dr Thamby diagnosed her over the phone as having an ear infection when it turned out she had a blood clot in her lung.

No action was taken against Dr Thamby by the GMC on this occasion but the doctor wrote a letter to the investigating officer, which was passed to Mrs Davis, in which he apologises for causing her offence by commenting on the phone that she “sounded alright” as “she was speaking in sentences”.

Dr Thamby also apologised for his “very insensitive” comment that Mr and Mrs Davis would have to change doctors as they were not in the Kingsthorpe practice area.

Mrs Davis, who managed to make a full recovery after having emergency surgery at Northampton General Hospital, said: I won’t forgive him for what he put me through.”