Published by BBC NEWS - 6th June 2023
  • Published
CharlieImage source, Family photo

The mother of a seriously ill boy said she was “very alarmed” when a doctor at an under-fire children’s ward admitted they were “out of their depth”.

In October, Carys’s five-year-old son Charlie was discharged from Kettering General, but she returned him the next day in a “sort of lifeless” state.

She said it seemed “quite chaotic” on Skylark ward before he was transferred to another hospital for further tests.

The hospital said it had undergone a “comprehensive improvement programme”.

Since the BBC’s report in February that highlighted the concerns of parents with children who died or became seriously ill at the hospital, dozens more have come forward.

In April, Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors rated the Northamptonshire hospital’s children’s and young people’s services inadequate.

Among the findings, inspectors said “staff did not always effectively identify and quickly act upon patients at risk of deterioration”.

The CQC have since re-inspected in April, with the publication of that report due in July.

Skylark ward

The first inspection took place in December, two months after Charlie attended having woken up unable to talk and walk properly, according to his mother.

She said he was discharged from Skylark ward on 22 October with his illness said to be the “remnants” of an ear infection, with Carys stating she was “very surprised they said he should be discharged just because of the state of him”.

Charlie’s father Will said he believed he was discharged because “they didn’t know what was wrong with him”, stating they asked his son whether he was being bullied and appeared not to take concerns about his struggles to walk seriously.

The following day Charlie began to be sick, but when his parents called the hospital “they said they didn’t have any room for Charlie”.

Carys said they attended accident and emergency with “a child sort of lifeless in my arms being sick”, but were told to go to Skylark.

She said while on the ward, a lot of the doctors looked at Charlie “just a bit bemused”.

Carys said a doctor “said to me that they were out of their depth, they didn’t know what was wrong with him and that if it was his son he would have him in Oxford hospital, so they arranged for him to transfer that evening”.


Image source, Family photo

When Charlie was transferred, he was assessed as having the rare autoimmune disease acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

Asked for her thoughts on Skylark ward, Carys said: “They seemed understaffed. The nurses, to be fair to them, were doing whatever they could, as were the doctors, but it did just seem quite chaotic in there.”

The hospital’s chief executive, Deborah Needham, said: “Since the CQC’s inspections in December 2022 we have carried out a comprehensive improvement programme to address the issues raised, including a clinical summit attended by 80 clinicians with a strong focus on the patient experience and the appropriate actions in place to address concerns.

“Regarding the patient inquiry, we would not comment to the media on individual patient cases for confidentiality reasons, but would urge any family with concerns about their care to contact us directly so that we can appropriately address any issues raised.

“Regarding specialist tertiary care, it is important to note that Kettering General Hospital is not a tertiary centre for specialist investigation, diagnosis and treatment, so on occasions where that may be needed we would appropriately refer a patient to a specialist hospital for ongoing care and treatment.”

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