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Jeremy Hunt 'apologises' for meningitis care failures

Posted on 30/11/2017 by

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The health secretary has apologised for "system failures" which led to the deaths of two teenagers from meningitis B, their families said.

A meeting with Jeremy Hunt came after the deaths of George Zographou, 18, and Isabel Gentry, 16, who studied at the same Bristol school.

An inquest into Isabel's death found gross failures in her care at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

Mr Hunt said a working group would look at raising awareness of the disease.

Following the meeting in London, George's mother Elaine said it had been "positive".

"Jeremy Hunt apologised... and he admitted we had been failed by the system," she said.

Isabel's father Paul, from Swindon, said Mr Hunt apologised "for the failings in the system that resulted in the deaths of our children".

"It's ongoing and it's a big step forward. We're really pleased," he added.

He added that Mr Hunt promised to set up a working group - to raise awareness of the disease - which the families could be part of, along with MPs, Public Health England and the charity Meningitis Now.

Both George, who died earlier this year, and Isabel, who died last year, went to St Brendan's Sixth Form College in Bristol, although Public Health England said it did not believe the two cases were linked.

The teenagers' stories

Isabel Gentry, known as Izzy, had been revising for AS-level exams when she started to feel unwell on 18 May 2016.

She was taken to Bristol Royal Infirmary and discharged four hours later, but her condition deteriorated and she was taken back to hospital, where she died on 20 May.

At the inquest into her death, Avon coroner Maria Voisin said there were gross failures in hercare at the hospital, and called on the government to fund the meningitis B vaccination for teenagers.

Ms Voisin said a doctor who saw Isabel should have referred her case to a registrar before allowing her to be discharged.

Isabel's mother Claire Booty said the family believed Isabel would have had a "better chance" at a children's hospital "given her illness is more prevalent in the teenage age group due to their physiology".

She added Bristol Royal Infirmary failed to give Isabel a "thorough and logical" assessment and questioned whether the hospital had "the ability" to learn from her daughter's death.

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust said as a result of her death a number of measures had been implemented, including a review of training for doctors and an updated system of early warning scores.

Isabel's father wrote an open letter of support to the family of George Zographou after his death from the same strain in August this year.

George fell ill at the Boardmasters Surf and Music Festival in Newquay.

He died on 16 August, the day before he was due to receive his A-level results.

A meningitis B vaccine is currently available to children up to the age of one, but making it available to all children - including teenagers - is "not cost effective" and would be a waste of NHS money, the UK government said last year.

Meningitis Now said a study was recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in 2014 to assess the impact that vaccinating teenagers against meningitis B would have on "the carriage and transmission of the bacteria to the general population".

The charity said it was waiting for the study to start.

Dr Tom Nutt, its chief executive, attended the meeting with Mr Hunt as support for the families.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "The Secretary of State will form a working group to discuss how to raise awareness of signs and symptoms amongst parents and health care professionals. More details on the scope will be confirmed in due course."

He added the UK was a "global leader" in access to childhood vaccinations.

"We were the first country to introduce a national publicly-funded meningitis B vaccination programme.

"There is around a 90 per cent uptake for almost all childhood vaccines, and Public Health England continue to work with charities and higher education institutions to increase awareness of the Men ACWY vaccination."

Source: BBCNews