Girl dies after being turned away by GP for being late for appointment

The system fails asthma sufferer Ellie-May Clark (5) and a chance to save her life is missed, the inquest into her death hears.

Ellie-May Clark (5) was wheezy and struggling to walk when she arrived, with her mother Shanice, five minutes late for a GP appointment at the Grange Clinic in Newport, Wales on January 26, 2015, an inquest into her death heard yesterday.

But Dr Joanne Rowe (54) refused to see the youngster, sending her home without checking on her medical records, because she was late.

The record would have shown the five-year-old was prone to life-threatening asthma attacks and had previously been admitted to intensive care.

Single mother Shanice Clark (26) told the inquest she was refused a home visit after Ellie-May had arrived home from school distressed and wheezing at 3 pm on January 26.

Instead, the young mother, who also has an eight-week-old baby, was given 25 minutes to get to the surgery for an emergency appointment with Dr Rowe at 5pm.

Giving evidence at the inquest Ms Clark said: “I told the receptionist I am going to be late, I have to get someone to look after my baby.

“I was five minutes late – there was someone in front of the queue and the receptionist was on the phone.

“I said to the receptionist I could not have got there earlier, but when she rang through to the doctor I was told I would have to bring Ellie-May back in the morning.”

The conversation with the receptionist took place between 5.10 pm and 5.18 pm, when she reached the front of the queue, the inquest heard.

The receptionist Ann Jones said: “I rang through and Dr Rowe said she would not see her. I can remember apologizing profusely to Shanice who was very sad when I told her.

“I didn’t challenge the decision, I am the receptionist, they are the doctors. It’s their call.”

Dr Joanne Rowe, Ellie-May and her mother, Shanice. Pic

Dr Joanne Rowe, Ellie-May and her mother, Shanice. Pic

The Grange surgery operates a system where patients would be asked to book an appointment the next day if they were 10 minutes late. But Mrs Jones told the inquest the rule only applied to routine appointments and she had never turned away an emergency.

“We were always told you should never turn away children and the elderly,” she said.

The court heard Dr Rowe made an entry in the surgery records saying Mrs Clark and Ellie-May did not attend their appointment, but it was amended by Mrs Jones to say the mother and daughter had arrived but were not seen due to arriving late.

Mrs Clark put her daughter to bed at 8 pm after they got home and planned to take her back to GP the next day as prescribed but she found Ellie-May blue and struggling to breathe at 10:30 pm.  An ambulance was called but the doctors could not save her.

Dr Rowe admitted at the inquest that it was “not acceptable” to have sent Ellie-May away.  “I should have got the duty doctor to see her,” she said.

She admitted  she would have made a different decision if she had known Ellie-May was having an asthma attack.  She hadn’t opened Ellie-May’s records because she was with another patient when Mrs Jones rang her, she told the coroner.

The inquest is continuing.



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