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The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has finally published its report on the death of an eight-week-old baby, Ben Condon at Bristol Children’s Hospital in April 2015.
The PHSO report follows a wait of nearly four years for Ben’s parents, double-Olympian Allyn Condon and his wife, Jenny, who have fought tirelessly tooth and nail to get to the truth as to why their much-loved son died.
It agrees that University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Bristol Children’s Hospital, failed to be open and honest with them about the events surrounding Ben’s death and that this could be seen as a failure to “meet the duty of candour” and “a deliberate attempt to deceive.”
The hospital staff involved in Ben’s care did not listen to Allyn and Jenny and did not communicate with them “often enough, at the right time, clearly enough or completely enough.”
Ben died due to severe sepsis caused by a bacterial infection after being admitted to the hospital with a respiratory virus. He was not given antibiotics until an hour before he died, and Allyn and Jenny were not told about the sepsis until seven weeks after Ben’s death, once he had been cremated.
Doctors told Allyn and Jenny that blood tests taken the day before Ben’s death were negative for a bacterial infection. However, this was a lie – no blood test was carried out in the week leading up to Ben’s passing.
Allyn Condon said:
“Six years have gone past but the anguish and pain we feel about Ben’s death are still just as intense. We feel vindicated as a family that there has been an official, independent acknowledgement of multiple, widespread failings at Bristol Children’s Hospital.
“Reading the report makes us realise just how badly Ben was treated and how atrociously we, as his parents, were dealt with. While we feel no relief at the publication of the PHSO’s findings because everything there we knew about or suspected all along, seeing the report in black and white really hammers home the injustices we’ve experienced.
“The Trust waited for seven weeks to tell us Ben had a bacterial infection. By this time we had already cremated our lovely little boy. They took away our opportunity to have a post mortem so we would know the truth. This is the most irreversible of all failings and this one failing alone, has caused irreparable damage to our family.
“The report highlights a universal failure to be open and honest. In all investigations, the Trust has always denied this. They had every opportunity to make this right over the past six years and they have failed to use it. Not one single person has been held accountable or faced disciplinary action in relation to the failings in Ben’s care, the lies that were spun or the deception we endured.”
“Everyone seems to skate around the legal duty of candour as if does not exist. Had the Hospital been open and honest from the start, it would never have got this far. Unless people are prepared to listen and learn, this will keep happening to other families.
“Throughout all of this, the Trust was given an “outstanding” review by the CQC. The CQC made us feel as if we were vexatious parents who should not be believed. We also need to look at the failings of the regulators, including the CQC, over the past six years.
“Now that the report has been released, we will focus on our Application to the High Court to quash the original inquest verdict and to order a fresh inquest.”
Mary Smith from Novum Law, who is a specialist inquest lawyer and a patient safety expert is supporting the Condon family. She said:
“Where mistakes lead to serious harm, all healthcare providers have a duty to be candid with patients and families, at the earliest opportunity.
“Clearly this did not happen in baby Ben’s case. Instead, Allyn and Jenny were faced with a catalogue of serious failings by Bristol Children’s Hospital and what appear to have been deliberate attempts to deceive.
“The irony is that these actions took place mere months after the introduction of the statutory ‘duty of candour’, enacted in the wake of the mid-Staffs scandal.
“The Trust had a real opportunity to share learning to prevent harm to other babies and children, yet they chose not to use it.
“While the PHSO’s report today has brought vindication for Allyn and Jenny, it should never have got this far. No bereaved family should ever have to suffer the additional trauma of battling for answers in the way Ben’s have.”
Mary Smith is representing the family in their application for a fresh inquest into Ben’s death at the Royal Courts of Justice on 20 October 2021.
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