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Family calls for fatal accident inquiry into hospital water infection death

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. Image credit: PA

Family calls for fatal accident inquiry into hospital water infection death

The family of a 10-year-old girl who died after contracting an infection at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in 2017 is calling for a fatal accident inquiry into her death.

Milly Main was undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in the children’s cancer ward of QEUH, before she died in August 2017.

Her parents, Kimberly Darroch and Neil Main, have instructed solicitors to send a letter to the Lord Advocate arguing that: “The circumstances of Milly’s death gives rise to many questions of significant concern as to how she came to be infected while being treated at a children’s cancer ward.”

Milly had been undergoing chemotherapy, which was being administered via a Hickman line – a central venous catheter – when she contracted the infection, her family said.

Through their lawyers, Milly’s parents have claimed “the site of Milly’s Hickman line became infected” and said she “developed sepsis as a result of this infection” before she died.

Darroch said NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) had “let us down at every step of the way and kept us in the dark”, in a statement sent via Labour MSP for Glasgow Anas Sarwar.

“We believe Milly would still be alive today if the managers had listened to all the warnings of infection risk when the QEUH first opened. We have lost all faith in the health board and its leadership,” she said.

“As a family we have had to consider all options so that we can get answers about Milly’s death, and so that no family has to go through this ordeal again. We are calling for a fatal accident inquiry to uncover the truth.”

The parents’ lawyer, Patrick McGuire, said the family had been “denied the basic human dignity of being able to grieve the loss of their child because they still do not know what really happened or why.

“They cannot understand how they lost their child and as such their life is anchored to the past. They will not be able to grieve and move on (as best anyone can in such circumstances) until they have the truth,” McGuire said.

“To date, they have only been drip fed some information from the health board. This is not good enough and is a far cry from a full and independent inquiry that seeks to uncover the full facts and circumstances.

“The need for an independent inquiry into the death of Milly is particularly important. There is clear evidence that the health board did not follow established and necessary protocols and procedures by failing to report Milly’s death to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. In short, the family have no trust or faith in anything that they are told by the health board.”

Sarwar put the issue to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister’s Questions on Thursday: “Milly’s parents were not told the truth cause of her death at the time, the health board new the water supply was not safe and posed a high risk of infections when the hospital was opened, and they failed to follow protocols.

“The way Milly’s family has been treated is nothing short of a disgrace. It’s right that we have a wider public inquiry, but there must be a specific inquiry on the circumstances of Milly’s death.”

Sturgeon replied: “I absolutely sympathise with Kimberly, Milly’s mum, what they went through is absolutely unacceptable. In terms of the call for a fatal accident inquiry, I can absolutely understand that call and sympathise with the reasons behind that.”

However, she added: “Decisions on fatal accident inquiries are for the law officers themselves, not for the Scottish Government, but I’m sure the Lord Advocate will listen carefully to the representations that are being made by Milly’s family and respond in due course, and hopefully as quickly as possible.”

NHSGGC said the Procurator Fiscal sets out "clear advice to medical practitioners on the circumstances when a death should be reported and these were followed in this case”.

"However we fully appreciate the position and concerns of Milly’s family and that is why we have taken the steps to review her case again,” the board said, in a statement. 

NHSGGC said it had previously written to Darroch to “answer some of her questions and we would welcome any further questions she may have”.

“We will also continue to update her on the significant amount of work underway to review Milly’s case,” it said.

“Milly’s case is being included in the review of cases that Professor Marion Bain, Director of Infection Prevention and Control, will be overseeing and this will involve Milly’s family in whatever way they wish to be involved. This may consider whether, in view of the family’s ongoing concerns, a referral should be made to the Crown Office.”

NHSGGC chief executive Jane Grant said she was “truly sorry for the distress and pain being caused to Milly’s family as they continue to grieve for their daughter”, and that the family “deserves answers”.

“We owe it to them to thoroughly and fully re-examine the investigations that took place in 2017 and again last year,” she said. 

“We want to do anything we can to answer her questions.  We have written to her and remain keen to meet Ms Darroch to discuss these results in more detail with her.”

In September last year, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced a public inquiry into issues at QEUH and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, looking at how defects in ventilation and other key building systems occurred and what steps can be taken to prevent these problems being repeated in future projects.

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