Beds, Herts & Bucks

Meningitis death in Milton Keynes 'preventable'

A woman, denied antibiotics that could have saved her from dying from meningitis, died after a "breakdown in communication" between doctors.

Joanne Dowling, 25, was rushed to Milton Keynes General Hospital with suspected meningococcal septicaemia in November last year, an inquest heard.

Milton Keynes coroner Thomas Osborne recorded a narrative verdict.

He found antibiotic treatment was not continued after a lack of proper communication between doctors.

Miss Dowling, a cystic fibrosis sufferer, was taken to the hospital by an ambulance after her GP saw a purple rash on her body and diagnosed suspected meningococcal septicaemia.

'Getting worse'

A locum consultant sent Miss Dowling for a CT brain scan and a lumbar puncture and recommended a microbiologist was consulted to advise on the best type of antibiotic to use because of her cystic fibrosis.

But when the lumbar puncture returned with a negative result, Dr Christian Akubuine, who had taken over her care, decided no antibiotics were needed.

A pathologist told the inquest that meningococcal septicaemia does not always show up as a positive result in such tests.

Miss Dowling took photographs of the rash on her arms, hands and legs, and sent them to her mother and a friend, telling them she feared she was "getting worse".

Her condition deteriorated and she died in the early hours of 24 November last year, 14 hours after being admitted to hospital.

'Tests carried out'

Coroner Mr Osborne said: "On 23 November, Joanne Dowling was referred to the Milton Keynes General Hospital by her general practitioner with suspected meningococcal septicaemia.

"A number of tests and investigations, including a CT brain scan and a lumbar puncture, were carried out to exclude meningitis.

"As a result of a breakdown in communication, the antibiotic therapy that was included as part of the treatment plan was not continued and resulted in a lost opportunity to render further medical treatment, and she died of meningococcal septicaemia at 0520 BST on 24 November, 2009."

In a statement, Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation trust expressed its condolences to Miss Dowling's family.

It said there was a "comprehensive internal investigation to review her care and treatment" and that the recommendations made at its conclusion were already being put in place.

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