Nurse points to 'deficiencies' in care of Warminster boy
Updated 5:30pm Thursday 16th January 2014 in Latest News
A four-year-old boy recovering from heart surgery on a controversial hospital ward in Bristol received a poor level of care, a senior nurse has admitted at an inquest.
William Booth said there were "deficiencies" in the care that Sean Turner received while a patient on Ward 32 at Bristol Children's Hospital.
The little boy from Warminster died in March 2012 from a brain haemorrhage after previously suffering a cardiac arrest - six weeks after he underwent vital corrective heart surgery.
His parents, Steve, 47, and Yolanda Turner, 45, have given harrowing accounts to the inquest of how they begged doctors and nurses on the ward to help their desperately ill son.
Mr and Mrs Turner have accused doctors of transferring their son to Ward 32 from intensive care too soon and said they missed the signs of his worsening condition.
They claim their son's death was not isolated and other children with heart problems have died at the hospital.
Up to 10 families are believed to be taking legal action against the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust over treatment on Ward 32.
Mr Booth, the matron and lead nurse for paediatric critical care services at the hospital, told Avon Coroner's Court: "I can accept there were deficiencies in care and that the (staffing) ratios could have been better. We would never move a child from intensive care to a ward if we thought it was unsafe for them to be there."
Mr Booth outlined the changes that had been made on Ward 32, such as improving staffing levels, training, communication with parents and the setting up of a high dependency unit within the ward - but insisted this was not as a result of Sean's death.
He said that within the newly created five-bed high dependency unit there was a ratio of patients to nurses of 2:1 and throughout the remainder of the ward it was now 3:1.
"The changes have not been made as a direct result of Sean Turner but of course there are lessons learnt and we have addressed those in relation to how Ward 32 operates," Mr Booth said.
He said the trust had also commissioned its own independent review of paediatric nursing across the whole hospital and its findings had been implemented.
The inquest has heard that following Sean's death and that of seven-year-old heart patient Luke Jenkins, from Cardiff, who died nearly a month later, their parents made a complaint to the independent healthcare watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.
The CQC carried out an unannounced inspection and issued a formal warning to the hospital about standards on Ward 32.
Adam Korn, representing Mr and Mrs Turner, suggested there was a direct correlation between the deaths of the two boys, the CQC report and recommendations and the changes on Ward 32.
Mr Booth said he did not accept this and added: "The trust had already undertaken a risk assessment and identified there were issues with high dependency and staff levels, which is why the trust commissioned the independent review. I would not agree it was as a result of these deaths."
Mr Korn then asked: "The question screaming out, the question that Mr and Mrs Turner want answering is why these changes were not introduced before he died? Why did it take his death and the CQC report to bring about changes?"
Mr Booth replied: "That's very difficult to answer. I didn't professionally manage the service then..."
When pushed on the point, Mr Booth said that Sean's death was "one factor" in the changes made on Ward 32.
"I believe the care children received on Ward 32 was safe and children received good care and we received many compliments from parents," he said. "We acknowledge that we can always improve."
Mrs Turner remained outside the court room during Mr Booth's evidence as she did not wish to hear it, and before Mr Booth left the stand, he told Mr Turner: "We are very sorry for your loss on behalf of the nursing team. We work very hard and we strive to achieve those high levels of care and maintain them. We are truly very sorry for your loss."
The inquest continues tomorrow