Hospital ‘not to blame’ for child’s death

Entertainer Joe Longthorne at Brian House Children's Hospice with tragic Charlie, who was 10 months' old at the time
Entertainer Joe Longthorne at Brian House Children's Hospice with tragic Charlie, who was 10 months' old at the time

A coroner has ruled it is ‘not possible to say’ whether keeping a young boy in hospital before he died would have saved his life.

Four-year-old Charlie Barker-Sage, who suffered from several chronic illnesses after being born prematurely, died from pneumonia two days after being admitted and then discharged from Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

His inquest heard how doctors sent the Staining youngster home after prescribing antibiotics, but his parents said they were against the idea, only agreeing after talking with consultants.

After hearing several hours of evidence at the Town Hall, coroner Alan Wilson said: “It seems that, particularly with his parents saying he was being provided with his usual medication to no effect and that he had chronic lung worries, that keeping him in hospital would have been prudent.

“But it would be wrong to attribute that to a failure.

“It’s not possible to say whether a different decision would have led to a different outcome.”

The inquest was told Charlie’s parents, Sarah Barker and Adrian Sage, took the youngster to hospital on Monday, March 21, after he became dystonic, suffering muscle spasms and sweating profusely as he had several times previously.

Sarah said: “What was different was his stomach was not bloated like it often was when he was dystonic. He had Crohn’s Disease so it was usually his stomach.”

Charlie, who also had cerebral palsy and needed a carer to look after him throughout the night, was diagnosed following a chest x-ray, which showed early signs of the inflammatory lung condition.

Sarah said the pneumonia was caught early, so doctors said Charlie could be treated at home and brought back if his symptoms worsened.

“We were not keen to take him home at all,” she told the hearing.

“But we believed what we were being told and that the antibiotics would soon kick in.”

Dr Morris Gordon, a children’s doctor at the hospital, said in his evidence: “At that time, with the diagnosis and treatment in place, I felt it was entirely appropriate if we had the safety net in place for Charlie to return if he needed to.

“There was no indication, once we had a diagnosis, that anything would be done differently in hospital.”

Charlie’s condition did worsen and he was re-admitted to hospital the next day.

Medics suspected he had sepsis, and he was later transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Merseyside, where the court heard he became incredibly poorly in a short space of time.

He died shortly before 6am on Wednesday, March 23.

Mr Wilson recorded a verdict of natural causes, and accepted Alder Hey doctor Jo McPartland’s cause of death of pneumonia, and para-influenza virus type four, with cerebral palsy and chronic lung disease as contributing factors.