Parents fear cover-up after death of two-month-old son

Allyn and Jenny Condon (Picture: Neil Munns Photography).

Allyn and Jenny Condon (Picture: Neil Munns Photography). - Credit: Credit -Neil Munns Photography,F

A two-month-old baby from Weston-super-Mare died in hospital after his parents were told he simply had a cold – but they later discovered he also had a rare infection, and fear mistakes were covered up by medics.

Flax Bourton Coroner's Court.

Flax Bourton Coroner's Court. - Credit: Archant

Ben Condon was born prematurely and spent his early life in hospital.

He was eventually allowed to move to his home in Camp Road North with parents Allyn and Jenny Condon, but days later he developed a cough and had trouble breathing.

He was rushed to Bristol Children’s Hospital but he continued to deteriorate and died six days later.

Mr and Mrs Condon were told he died from a cold called HMPV and a lung condition, made worse by the fact he was born prematurely.

Flax Bourton Coroner's Court.

Flax Bourton Coroner's Court. - Credit: Archant

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But seven weeks later, the couple were told he also had a sepsis infection when he died – a rare condition which had only been identified in Bristol twice before.

Ben’s parents feared a cover-up by the hospital when they learned they had been given inaccurate information about blood tests.

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When they met with doctors to discuss Ben’s death, both parties agreed to record the meeting. But when the parents stepped out, doctors continued to talk before realising they were still being taped.

Senior staff debated deleting that part of the conversation, although they did not do so.

An independent report published ahead of an inquest this week said: “The trust appeared to lose sight of the fact that this was a grieving family who wanted straight answers to questions about their son’s diagnosis, care and treatment.”

It said there was no evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up, but the hospital’s subsequent actions only bolstered the parents’ belief that there had been one. The report criticised the hospital for not addressing Mr and Mrs Condon’s questions about their son’s death in a candid way.

Mr Condon told the Mercury he agreed with 98 per cent of the report.

He said: “The fact that we lost Ben is one thing and nothing will bring him back.

“The hospital compounded everything. Every time we found something else was because the hospital tripped themselves up.

“It feels like we have spent the past 14 months investigating the hospital, and we have no capacity as parents to do so.”

Robert Woolley, chief executive of the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust said he accepted the report’s findings in full.

He said: “Our systems and processes didn’t work for the Condon family.

“We are saddened we missed too many opportunities to proactively engage with Ben’s parents, to fully answer their questions and to really get a grip of their complaint.

“We are truly very sorry for adding to Ben’s family’s distress and apologise to them unreservedly.

“The board will be going through the report very carefully to build on the actions we have already taken. Actions already undertaken include improvements to the support we provide for families who may sadly experience the unexpected death of a child in hospital.

“We will develop a comprehensive action plan to address all the issues the report raises and oversee its rapid implementation.”

An inquest into Ben’s death this week heard how Mr Condon expected doctors to provide antibiotics to his son.

But doctors told Flax Bourton Coroners’ Court that there was little evidence to show he was suffering from an infection.

The hearing was expected to conclude as the Mercury went to press.

Laurence Vick, the family’s solicitor, said: “This has been a very long and difficult road for Allyn and Jenny.

“With every passing month, more information has emerged about their son’s treatment and this has only added to their frustration and anxiety.

“They are not setting out to demonise the trust but, in many instances, one has to agree that there has been a lack of candour which they understandably find hugely upsetting.”

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