Family who rushed boy, 7, to A&E with meningitis symptoms are stunned to receive letter accusing them of wasting NHS time
Georgina Houghton, 33, called NHS Direct one weekend after son Colby, 7, developed a temperature, vomiting and sensitivity to light
Told the little boy might have meningitis and needed to go to A&EDashed to hospital where doctors diagnosed a viral infection
Days later Colby received letter from family GP, lambasting him for wasting NHS time and not consulting GP first
01:32 GMT, 7 December 2012
Her little boy had a temperature, was sensitive to light and so poorly he couldn’t even get out of bed.
With the GP surgery shut for the weekend, Georgina Houghton-Small rang NHS Direct, who said it could be meningitis and told her to take seven-year-old Colby to hospital as fast as she could.
Mercifully, Colby was diagnosed with a viral infection and sent home with antibiotics.
Colby Houghton's mother was told by NHS Direct to take him to A&E with suspected meningitis. The family received a stinging letter from the local medical centre a few days later, accusing them of wasting NHS time
But Mrs Houghton-Small’s relief
turned to outrage a few days later when a letter arrived from the GP
addressed to Colby – admonishing him for going to A&E instead of the
The practice said it had received a
letter from the hospital about his visit, and continued: ‘A&E is for
life-threatening situations such as a heart attack or stroke and for
the care of people who show the symptoms of serious illness or who are
A furious Mrs Houghton-Small condemned the surgery yesterday, saying its attitude could put lives at risk.
‘I was so angry that they would make
us feel that we were wrong to seek medical advice over something like
that,’ said the 33-year-old mother of four.
‘The letter said A&E is only for
people with serious symptoms. How much more serious does it need to be
for a child of seven
‘This sort of thing needs to be
stopped. It could put people off taking their children to hospital when
they are seriously ill.’
Colby developed a temperature at his
home in Arlesey, Bedfordshire, on November 9. The next day he started
vomiting. /12/06/article-2244044-00759F2800000258-509_634x347.jpg” width=”634″ height=”347″ alt=”Colby's parents rushed him to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage on the instructions of NHS Direct. Doctors there established he had a viral infection and sent him home with antibiotics” class=”blkBorder” />
Colby's parents rushed him to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage on the instructions of NHS Direct. Doctors there established he had a viral infection and sent him home with antibiotics
His parents tried giving him fluids
and Calpol but eventually rang NHS Direct. Their local GP surgery was
closed as it was the weekend.
‘He always has the energy to get up
and play, but he didn’t get out of bed and all he wanted to do was
sleep,’ Mrs Houghton-Small said.
‘We were really worried. If a kid is so ill they don’t want to watch TV or play with their toys, you know something is wrong.
‘NHS Direct said get him to A&E
immediately and take another adult in case he takes a turn for the worse
on the way so someone is free to call 999 as the other drives. That
scared us even more.’
She and her husband Gavin, 34, dashed
over to Lister Hospital in Stevenage. Staff there said he had a viral
infection and prescribed antibiotics. A GP visited Colby the next day,
and he soon recovered.
But on November 17 he received the
admonishing letter from his surgery, the Arlesey Medical Centre.
Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for 55
GP practices, yesterday said the surgery had not realised NHS Direct had
A spokesman added: ‘It’s current
practice for some GP surgeries to write to their patients advising them
of the importance of using their A&E departments for emergencies
only and to promote the use of their GP service or the local
out-of-hours GP service for non-emergencies.
‘We very much regret if the letter
caused distress but it was intended to help the family make the right
choice about the service they need to ensure they receive the best
possible health care in the future.’
An extract from the letter the GP surgery sent, addressed to Colby