NHS apology over amputee toddler in toxic shock misdiagnosis

Reuben Harvey-Smith Image copyright PA
Image caption Reuben Harvey-Smith lost both legs below the knee and parts of seven fingers after hospital staff failed to recognise his body had gone into toxic shock

An NHS trust has apologised "unreservedly" after a misdiagnosis resulted in a three-year-old boy having his legs and seven fingers amputated.

Lou Harvey-Smith took son Reuben to Ipswich Hospital in July 2015 after he burned himself. Two days later she took him again, with a fever, and was told he had tonsillitis.

He was later diagnosed with toxic shock syndrome and underwent the amputations.

The trust admitted "full liability" and settlement negotiations are under way.

After he was treated at the hospital for the accidental burn, Reuben developed a fever and sore throat.

Ms Harvey-Smith took him back and was given antibiotics for tonsillitis.

The following day the child was critically ill.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The toddler was critically ill by the time he was diagnosed

His mother called the burns unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for a second opinion.

Doctors suspected toxic shock, a life-threatening infection which would have been caused by bacteria entering the wound and releasing poisonous toxins into Reuben's blood.

'Poorly feet gone'

The boy was rushed back to Ipswich Hospital then transferred to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, where staff carried out the amputations.

Ms Harvey-Smith, 41, from Chelmondiston, near Ipswich, said: "[Reuben] looked at his amputated legs and said 'poorly feet gone, get new ones.'

"He just accepts it and gets on with things."

Image copyright Slater and Gordon/PA
Image caption Reuben, pictured before his illness and after with his new prosthetic legs
Image copyright PA
Image caption Mother Lou Harvey-Smith is campaigning for greater awareness of the condition that could have killed her son

However, she took legal action against Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust which admitted toxic shock was a "significant possibility" based on the child's symptoms at the time, and amputation could have been avoided with earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Ms Harvey-Smith's solicitor, Tim Deeling, said: "It is extremely concerning they were aware of the link between burns and toxic shock, yet didn't consider this for Reuben's case."

The trust has made an interim payment of £50,000.

A spokesman said: "In an ongoing legal case the trust has admitted full liability for shortcomings in the A&E care provided to Reuben in July 2015 and have offered an unreserved apology."

Further training has been provided to staff in recognising the warning signs of septic shock syndrome, he said.

The trust was "committed to ensuring that Reuben is appropriately compensated so that he has the care, prostheses and equipment that he needs throughout his life", he added.

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