Southampton Hospital Settlement Over Boy's Death

25 February 2014, 06:43

The family of a four-year-old boy who died while in a hospital's High Dependency Unit are to be paid a five-figure sum in compensation.

Matthew Kenway, of Fareham, Hampshire, died at Southampton General Hospital in December 2010 after going in for a routine kidney operation.

At an inquest into his death, Coroner Keith Wiseman heard how Matthew had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, and there was a delay in summoning an emergency team to restart his heart.

Matthew's parents Mr Anthony Kenway and Ms Katie Oxley, represented by clinical negligence specialists from law firm Blake Lapthorn, took legal action against University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust over the circumstances of his death.

The Trust has now reached a settlement in which it has agreed to pay an undisclosed five-figure sum to Matthew's parents.

The family's solicitor Patricia Wakeford, of Blake Lapthorn, said: "Evidence heard at the inquest raised grave concerns about the quality of care that Matthew received and the processes that were in place at Southampton General Hospital at the time of Matthew's death.

"Despite their loss, Matthew's family have been determined to remember their son as the lively, happy, much-loved child that he was.

"They hope that important lessons are learned from the events that led to his death and that this will prevent other families suffering a similar tragedy in the future."

Ms Oxley said: "Nothing can bring Matthew back but we were determined to highlight what went wrong in the hope that lessons could be learned and that no other family would have to suffer what we have been through. 

"Knowing that changes have now been made in the high-dependency unit gives us some comfort. We will always feel Matthew's loss but we do now feel as if we can start to move on.

"We would like to thank Patricia Wakeford and Blake Lapthorn for their support during what has been an incredibly difficult and emotional time."

Matthew suffered from a type of muscular dystrophy called congenital fibre-type disproportion, which meant that he had weak muscles and had to be supported by a ventilator to help him breathe. He also had to be fed through a tube.

Despite the problems it causes, 75 per cent of sufferers of the condition are expected to live a normal lifespan.

Matthew was admitted to Southampton General Hospital in December 2010 because his breathing had deteriorated slightly and he had some pain caused by kidney stones.

On December 15 he underwent an operation to bypass the blockage by the insertion of a tube, known as a stent, up to his left kidney.

After the operation Matthew was looked after on the Paediatric High Dependency Unit (HDU). Shortly after 3am, the oxygen monitor probe appeared not to be recording his oxygen levels. The nurse initially thought the machine might be faulty, but it transpired that Matthew's heart had stopped.

Eventually, a cardiac arrest call was put out and the arrest team then attempted, for 40 minutes until 4.20am, to resuscitate Matthew but they were unsuccessful and he died.

During the course of the two-day inquest, a series of key findings emerged suggesting there were serious shortcomings in the care Matthew received.

At post-mortem it emerged that the stent placed in the left kidney was not in the correct place.

Staff on the Paediatric HDU did not recognise that Matthew's heart had stopped because he was on a ventilator that was maintaining his breathing. In addition, a monitoring probe recording his oxygen levels was felt to be the issue despite no change in Mathew's condition when it was changed.

The inquest heard that a cardiac monitor would have shown that his heart had stopped. The provision of heart monitors is now standard procedure in the Paediatric HDU after surgery.

Dr Michael Marsh, medical director at Southampton University Hospitals Trust, said: "This was an extremely sad case and our thoughts continue to be with Matthew's family following their loss.  

"We hope the information provided at his inquest last year helped to give his family a clearer picture of the unusual nature of his condition and the complexities it presented, and the positive actions taken by the trust as a result of the lessons learned.

"Although legal proceedings are now complete, we will continue to offer Matthew's family our full support to help them through this difficult experience."

Following Matthew's case, the Trust introduced electrocardiogram monitoring for all infants and children in the paediatric high dependency unit post-surgery.