A one-year-old baby girl died following open heart surgery as a result of ‘serious failings’ at a hospital, an inquest has ruled.
Hayley Fullerton died at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in 2009 after developing breathing difficulties following corrective surgery for a heart condition she had been born with.
The tot’s heartbroken mother Paula Stevenson claims she was ignored by doctors who told her she was ‘crying wolf’ when she pleaded with hospital staff to help her dying baby.
Paula, 40, says she was made to feel paranoid by the hospital and accused them of ignoring her dying daughter’s deteriorating condition.
She became so desperate that she even tried to motivate a nurse to take proper care of her baby daughter – by offering her a £100 gift voucher.
An inquest in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, ruled that the tot died as a result of serious failings at the hospital but that the errors made did not amount to neglect.
Recording a narrative verdict Birmingham and Solihull Coroner Aidan Cotter said the errors made did not amount to a “systemic” failure.
Speaking after the verdict Paula, 40, said: “Our entire family has been completely devastated by what happened and to this day we continue to grieve for Hayley.
“Our beautiful little girl would still be with us if the nurses who were supposed to be caring for her had come to her aid sooner.
“I still cannot understand how trained medics could ignore the fact that she was slowly deteriorating before their eyes.
“They had seven days to spot that something was seriously wrong but all those precious opportunities were missed.
“My parents and I never left Hayley’s bedside during the entire time she was in hospital and it was obvious to us, despite our lack of medical training, that she was a very sick little girl who needed help.
“I did all I could to try to get the nurses to help her but my appeals just fell on deaf ears.
“It only needed one nurse to show an ounce of compassion and common sense. It is to their shame that not one of them saw fit to ask for an urgent second opinion.
“Hayley was neglected in the worst possible way. She had successfully overcome the heart surgery, only to suffer complications which resulted in her suffering a slow, distressing death.
“My daughter was a little fighter but towards the end she battled so hard to breathe that her lungs gradually stopped working and it became too much for her frail body to cope with.”
Hayley was born in Belfast on October 6th 2008 with a congenital heart abnormality that meant blood could not get from her heart to her lungs.
Her parents, Bobby Fullerton and Paula Stevenson, from County Down, were told that their daughter’s condition would require corrective surgery when she was around 12 months old.
As the heart surgeon who had been looking after Hayley in Belfast was due to retire, Birmingham Children’s Hospital was recommended as an alternative.
Surgery to repair Hayley’s heart was successful and after spending a few days in intensive care she was moved to a general ward.
However she suffered breathing complications which were not properly treated for seven days. On the morning of 11 November, Hayley suffered a cardiac arrest after her lungs collapsed.
Mandy Luckman, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell solicitors said after the case: “Any parent whose child requires critical care at Birmingham Children’s Hospital – need reassurance that all clinical and nursing staff now clearly understand the criteria for a young patient needing urgent referral to PICU.
“We also hope that the trust has taken steps to remove the old hierarchical culture at the hospital which, in effect, prevented medical staff from doing their job.
“Although nothing can turn back the clock for Paula and her family, who continue to suffer the most unimaginable heartache, they are determined that Hayley’s death will not be completely in vain and will hopefully create a catalyst for change in the NHS.”