A grieving father yesterday told how his seriously ill toddler died in his arms after a receptionist made them wait over an hour to see a doctor.
Eric Linforth rushed 23 month-old Lucie to her local health centre suffering from severe cold symptoms and sickness.
He told an inquest how he held the tot up at the reception desk to show how ill she was and begged for someone to see her, but he was told to wait.
One receptionist said the infant would be seen quicker if he opted for a nurse – but she would still only be SIXTH in the queue.
Mr. Linforth said when Lucie started struggling to breathe he begged the receptionist but was still not prioritised.
He carried her outside to cool her down then paced anxiously past the reception desk with her “several” more times.
While he was sitting down a GP who was running late for work bumped into him as he entered the reception area.
The inquest heard that medical records showed Mr Linforth arrived at the surgery front desk at around 8.52am but was not seen by a nurse until 9.58am.
By then little Lucie’s lips were blue and she visibly had a fever.
She recorded a temperature of 38.3C but minutes after entering the nurse’s room she died.
Dr. Imran Ismail, head of the Marston Surgery in Marston Moretain nr Bedford, rushed in and tried in vain to resuscitate her.
Mr Linforth, 34, an unemployed electrician, called his partner Angie Collins, 40, but by the time she arrived at the surgery their daughter was dead.
Lucie was taken to nearby Bedford Hospital where her death was confirmed.
Mr Linforth held one of his daughter’s teddy bears as he told the inquest: “I knew she had died in my arms.”
He said: “I said I wanted to see a doctor. (The receptionist) asked how ill she was and I held her up and said ‘what do you think?’
“She said if I saw the nurse then Lucie would be seen quicker.”
He added: “She had a duty of care.
“I knew she had died in my arms when she stopped breathing.
“I had been concerned, but I didn’t think she was going to die.
“If I thought she was going to die I would have kicked the doors down and taken her in.
“I did not want to call Angie. She was very distressed.
“When she arrived she said ‘do not give up on my baby’.”
The tragedy, on October 5, last year, was the family’s first visit to the surgery after they had moved to the village three months earlier.
They had previously been registered at a Luton GP practice and Mr Linforth confirmed he had taken the appropriate forms with him.
he said his daughter had enjoyed her favourite tea of chicken nuggets the night before, but hardly slept due to sickness and fever.
A post-mortem recorded a primary cause of death as bronchiolitis and pneumonitis with respiratory syncytial virus.
A secondary cause of death was also recorded as respiratory tract infection due to rhinovirus.
The inquest heard Lucie had been taken to her previous GP practice three or four times previously, suffering from serious colds and was prescribed antibiotics.
Pathologist Dr Roger Malcolmson said it was impossible to say whether she had been suffering from the infection she died from on those visits.
He added that it was unlikely treatment when she first arrived at the GPs surgery would have guaranteed saving her life.
Ellen Clegg, the nurse who saw Lucie, denied telling Mr. Linforth the delay had been caused by a computer failure.
The receptionist who Mr Linforth approached yesterday told the inquest she had not seen Lucie’s pale face, or noticed her struggling to breathe.
But Kyra Wheeler, who has no medical or professional training, did admit to noticing Lucie appeared “floppy” when she was brought in.
Ms Wheeler, entrusted by practise managers to use “common sense” in her dealings with patients, denied to the inquest any knowledge of Mr Linforth’s pleas for Lucie to be seen sooner.
She said: “She [Lucie] was grisly and crying.
“She was crying and a bit floppy. She looked a bit weak.”
Ms Wheeler told the inquest Lucie was rushed into an ambulance she was abused by other patients in the waiting room.
Some openly said Lucie should have been seen before them.
Ms Wheeler said: “One said ‘We could see how ill the child was, why couldn’t you?’”
Dr Imran Ismail, who runs the practice, said his reception staff use “common sense” to decide whether to bump a patient up the list.
He said: “It is very much based on parent, carer contact with reception staff.
“If that contact is made to them they will make an effort to escalate the patient.”
He added: “Lucie needed a hospital.”
Staff estimated there were around 20 patients in the waiting room.
Mr Linforth told the inquest there were just four empty seats.
Fellow receptionist Sharon Carroll told the inquest how she comforted Lucie’s mother Angie Collins.
She said: “She collapsed down on the floor crying.
“She was saying ‘my baby, my baby’. I just stayed with her.”
Dr Rishi Arora, paediatrics specialist at Bedford Hospital, contradicated Dr Malcolmson’s assessment, stating Lucie might have been saved had she been taken straight to hospital.
Although Dr Arora agreed it was “impossible” to say for certain if she would have survived.
The inquest heard Mr Linforth gave up work after Lucie’s death and is now a full time carer for her twin brother Jake, who has autism, and and older sister Holly, four.
Lucie’s parents have launched the ‘Justice for Lucie’ campaign demanding priority treatment for children, whose condition deteriorates rapidly in waiting rooms.
The inquest continues.