Perth meningitis boy sent home with paracetamol

Owen Abbot, 15, and his mum Nicola Stewart. Owen was sent home from hospital to be readmitted later that day. Picture: SWNS
Owen Abbot, 15, and his mum Nicola Stewart. Owen was sent home from hospital to be readmitted later that day. Picture: SWNS
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HEALTH chiefs have been forced to apologise to a teenager who was sent home from A&E with two paracetamol tablets when he was later found to be suffering from meningitis.

Owen Abbot, 15, was given the painkillers but had to return to Perth Royal Infirmary two hours later where tests revealed he was suffering from the potentially fatal disease.

The schoolboy spent almost a week in a high-dependency unit, where he fought for his life.

Following the incident, his family raised the case with the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman. The watchdog has upheld their complaint and ordered the hospital to review its emergency department procedures as a result of the incident.

Health chiefs apologised to the family and Owen’s mother, Nicola Abbot, said she considered the actions of staff at the hospital as “despicable”.

She said: “Owen was dying, and they sent him home. It is absolutely despicable. I am angry at how we were treated, it was absolutely awful.”

She told how Owen started to feel unwell after returning from Perth Academy on Friday, 7 Dec­ember, 2012. He spent most of the Saturday asleep and gradually begin to feel more unwell. Mrs Abbot took him to the infirm­ary’s accident and emergency department in the early hours of Sunday, 9 December.

Mrs Abbot said: “Owen woke us on the early hours of Sunday and he was talking rubbish, he was very confused and said it felt like someone was putting a sledgehammer through his head.

“We thought something was seriously wrong so we took him to A&E. The triage nurse made a passing comment that there were a lot of bugs going around and gave him two paracetamol without doing any observations.”

An appointment was made for Owen to see an out-of-hours GP at 3am and he was sent home to wait until it was time for his appointment. Mrs Abbot said: “When we got him home, his condition really got worse. Meningitis never crossed our minds, but when we saw the doctor, he suspected it straightaway.”

Owen was sent for tests immediately, which confirmed he had bacterial meningitis.

His mother said: “At that point, he was already halfway gone and they pumped him full of antibiotics, steroids and painkillers.

“He said to me, ‘I can’t go on’ but I told him he had to, he had to fight it.

“He was in the high-dependency unit for five days.

“I asked the consultant if Owen was going to die and he didn’t answer me, he couldn’t answer me.”

Mrs Abbot said Owen, now 17 and an apprentice panel-beater, has recovered well from his ordeal but that he suffers from occasional memory lapses as a result of his experience.

She said: “It’s just another apology letter, it means nothing. It’s not good enough.”

A NHS Tayside spokeswoman last night said: “We have accepted and actioned all recommendations.”