Shropshire

Swine flu misdiagnosis girl 'could have survived'

Charlotte Hartey
Image caption Charlotte Hartey died in hospital last July

A teenager who died from complications arising from tonsillitis after being misdiagnosed with swine flu could have been saved, an inquest has heard.

Charlotte Hartey, 16, of Oswestry, Shropshire, died in Royal Shrewsbury Hospital on 31 July, 2009.

She was diagnosed with swine flu over the phone on 22 July and prescribed tamiflu.

Pathologist Dr Kenneth Scott said she might have lived if she had been correctly diagnosed and treated.

The NHS in Shropshire has been reviewing the case.

A post-mortem examination found she died of natural causes.

'Could not breathe'

Dr Scott, who carried out the post-mortem examination, told the inquest he found no signs of swine flu but confirmed Charlotte died after complications arising from tonsillitis.

The bacteria entering her blood stream had caused abscesses in her lungs, impairing their function and causing a severe chest infection, he said.

Dr Scott said: "She died from her lung condition because she couldn't breathe anymore. She had not enough lung function left to survive.

He added: "I think the chain started when she got tonsillitis... that is when it all began."

The pathologist told Shrewsbury Magistrates' Court: "With a correct diagnosis, the correct antibiotics and the correct dosage, given early enough, the outcome could have been different.

"The sooner an individual, a patient, gets the correct treatment, the better."

Dr Michael Arthur, the GP who prescribed tamiflu, told the inquest he conducted a phone consultation in accordance with NHS guidelines when swine flu was sweeping the country.

He said Charlotte's symptoms, which included a sore throat, runny nose and persistent cough, were "strongly suggestive" of a virus, rather than an infection.

"She didn't have any symptoms which made me think it wasn't a viral illness," he said.

Two days after tamiflu was prescribed, Charlotte's mother Helen requested a doctor's home visit.

GP Dr David Campbell visited that day and told the court he agreed with the swine flu diagnosis but also prescribed antibiotics because Charlotte's throat was inflamed.

He visited her home again on 28 July and took a blood test which revealed a high white blood cell count, indicating a serious infection.

'Highly unusual' bacteria

Pathologist Dr Scott said Charlotte was "extremely ill" by the time she reached hospital and it was unlikely she could have been saved.

"I can't think of any other treatment that could have been given that wasn't given," he said.

He said the bacterial infection which led to the teenager's death was "highly, highly, highly unusual" and one he had never come across before.

Dr Campbell and John Farrow, an ear nose and throat specialist at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust, both also told the hearing they had no experience of the bacteria, arcanobacterium haemolyticum, which had infected Charlotte's body.

Dr Campbell said: "Charlotte's death was a tragedy... her death was a considerable shock to me, it was so unexpected."

The inquest was adjourned until Thursday.

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