Death of three-year-old Ryleigh Hillcoat-Bee at Blackpool Victoria Hospital to be probed by coroner

Blackpool’s senior coroner will press ahead with an investigation into the untimely death of a 'smiley, happy' three-year-old girl whose rare illness went undiagnosed.
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A two-day inquest will examine the failures that ultimately led to the preventable death of Ryleigh Hillcoat-Bee in November 2021.

At a pre-inquest review today (Dec 01, 2023), Alan Wilson, Senior Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde confirmed that he will call for evidence from doctors who were involved in Ryleigh’s treatment at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Little girl was discharged despite ‘grossly abnormal’ results

Ryleigh Hilcoat Bee, aged 3, died with an undiagnosed illness called Rhabdomyolysis.Ryleigh Hilcoat Bee, aged 3, died with an undiagnosed illness called Rhabdomyolysis.
Ryleigh Hilcoat Bee, aged 3, died with an undiagnosed illness called Rhabdomyolysis.
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He will seek to ascertain the role that Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust played in the youngster’s care, which is not currently clear.

The inquest, which is expected to take place some time in Summer 2024, will investigate Ryleigh’s admission to Blackpool Victoria Hospital on August 13, 2021.

Tests at the time revealed she had ‘grossly abnormal’ liver results and ‘extraordinarily high’ levels of Creatine Kinase which can indicate a muscle injury or disease, but doctors suggested Ryleigh had either a chest infection or hepatitis. She was discharged at 11:45am, against the advice of a consultant paediatrician who wrote that further investigation was needed.

Three months later on November 8, 2021 Ryleigh passed away.

In March this year a genetic test revealed she had been suffering from a Lipin 1 deficiency.

Could doctors have identified serious underlying illness?

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At a pre-inquest review earlier this year, Ryleigh's parents voiced concerns that doctors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital should have identified the deficiency and its underlying cause.

Diane Rostron, a lawyer representing Ryleigh's parents Caroline Bee and Andrew Hillcoat, had argued that a full inquest should be carried out, as the tests carried out in hospital in August 2021 should have led doctors to recognise that Ryleigh was suffering from rhabdomyolysis. This is a serious medical condition that occurs when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood which can damage the heart and kidneys. It can cause permanent disability or even death.

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Coroner will call on independent expert

Alan Wilson told the court that, having examined all of the facts, he felt it was now appropriate to hold a full inquest.

During the pre-inquest review, held at Blackpool Town Hall, Mr Wilson stressed that it would be appropriate to call on an external expert to give evidence, as the case needed a level of independent scrutiny.

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Mrs Rostron told the court that the family felt this was vital to have independent expert evidence at the inquest.

When they had met with Dr Morris, a Consultant Paediatrician and Lead Clinician in Metabolic Medicine who had been involved in Ryleigh’s treatment, the family had felt that he seemed ‘uncomfortable’ answering ‘key questions’ they wanted to know.

Family support

Ryleigh's parents have been supported by The Compassionate Friends; a charity which helps families suffering the loss of a child.

Caroline's sister-in-law Katie Hobbs ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2022 and set up a fundraiser to raise money for the charity which raised £3,215.

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Katie wrote on the GoFundMe page: "In November last year my sister in law Caroline and her partner Andrew’s daughter Ryleigh died suddenly and unexpectedly. Her loss has been devastating for her parents and everyone that knew her. She was a smiley, happy little girl who brought so much much joy and magic where ever she went.

I am running for the compassionate friends because they have been a real support to ryleighs amazing parents through the toughest time of their lives. The charity have put them in touch with other bereaved parents and have organised a retreat they will go on to meet each other in person.They have also helped them navigate their inquest and provide support on the phone at any time. Andrew said that knowing they are there has been a massive help.....

".....And anything that’s a massive help for these two parents who have been through so much is worth running for!"