The family of a baby who died when doctors failed to spot he was critically ill were “let down in the worst possible way through serious failings”, the Health Secretary has said.
Jeremy Hunt made a statement to the House of Commons after a report was published into the death of 12-month-old William Mead.
William died in December 2014 after GPs and an NHS 111 call handler failed to identify that he was suffering from sepsis caused by an underlying infection.
Mr Hunt told MPs: “Whilst any health system will inevitably suffer some tragedies, the issues in this case have significant implications for the rest of the NHS that I’m determined we should learn from.
“Firstly though, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family of William Mead. I have met William’s mother, Melissa, who has spoken incredibly movingly about the loss of her son.
“Quite simply we let her, her family and William down in the worst possible way through serious failings in the NHS care offered and I would like to apologise to them on behalf of the government and the NHS for what happened.”
Mr Hunt said an inquiry by NHS England had found that if the action of GPs, out-of-hours doctors and 111 staff had been different, William would probably have survived.
According to the report, Mrs Mead spoke to medical staff at least nine times in the 11 weeks leading up to William’s death. He was seen by several GPs, who failed to spot that his condition was deteriorating. William died from sepsis and pneumonia. He had an abscess in his left lung.
On the day before his death, Mrs Mead called NHS 111 for advice and also spoke to an out-of-hours GP, who did not have access to any of her son’s medical records.
The report said the 111 question-and-answer format is not “sensitive” enough to pick up some conditions. The call handler also failed to explore comments about William’s condition, including about his high temperature.
But the report also blamed GPs, saying a “significant missed opportunity” was the fact that his underlying conditions were not recognised and treated.