Man asked to examine son in hospital car park

The father of a six-year-old boy who died as a result of a burst appendix was asked to examine him in a Cornish hospital car park, an inquest was told.

Ethan Kerrigan's father Lee had taken him to Penrice Hospital's out-of-hours clinic in June last year after his son had been vomiting for several days.

Mr Kerrigan was then told to phone the out-of-hours medical service and Ethan was not treated. He died the next day.

The coroner recorded a verdict of death by natural causes at the Truro hearing.

The inquest heard that Ethan had been unwell with stomach pains and vomiting for a few days before he died.

In the early hours of 15 June, his father took him to Penrice Hospital in St Austell.

When he arrived he was told to phone out-of-hours service Serco, which he did from the hospital's car park, the inquest heard.

'Lovely, caring boy'

On the phone, a triage nurse asked him to examine Ethan's abdomen.

Mr Kerrigan and Ethan's mother, Theresa Commons, both told the inquest that the nurse had asked them to give him ibuprofen, a hot water bottle and make an appointment to see a GP the next day, saying there was nothing to worry about.

The next day, Ethan collapsed in the doctors' surgery in Roche and died later at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, near Truro, from acute gangrenous appendicitis.

Jackie Whitmarsh, from Serco, told the inquest that an investigation had been carried out.

She said the organisation had found that the triage nurse had failed to ask enough questions.

She told the coroner the nurse had been put under six months' close supervision and the organisation had brought in new guidance on dealing with abdominal pain in children.

Assistant Cornwall coroner Barrie van den Berg recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.

Ethan's parents thanked doctors at the GP surgery and at the Royal Cornwall Hospital for trying to save their son's life.

Mr Kerrigan, from Roche, said Ethan was a "lovely, caring little boy".

"I'm so proud he was my boy."

In a statement, Serco said that the death was "a terrible tragedy".

It said: "Serco is committed to providing the highest quality of service to the NHS and the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and like any responsible healthcare provider, we seek continuously to learn lessons and to improve how we work.

"Since then we have worked with the local NHS to develop enhanced protocols for handling illness in young children, and these have now been in place for some time".

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