Heartbreak for family of mum-of-five who died after being let down by medics who missed sepsis diagnosis

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A coroner’s court found that Sarah Dunn would not have died if she had been admitted to hospital sooner

A heartbroken mum has told how her poorly daughter repeatedly begged doctors for help but was let down by medics who missed diagnosing the sepsis that killed her.

Mum-of-five Sarah Louise Dunn, 31, died in hospital last April 11, when she was admitted she was already showing signs of Sepsis - but was treated as a Covid-19 patient.

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A hearing into her death found the cause of Sarah’s death was “natural causes contributed to by neglect” and she would not have died if she had been admitted to hospital sooner.

The five-day coroner’s court hearing had heard how Sarah, of Blackpool, became ill days after an early pregnancy termination on March 23 last year.

Sarah DunnSarah Dunn
Sarah Dunn

She had visited her GP, Dr Sanjeev Maharaj, at the Elizabeth Street Surgery on April 1 after experiencing worsening vaginal bleeding.

At the time, Dr Maharaj, who was the only GP for 5,000 patients at the surgery, which is now closed, said she appeared ‘fairly well’ and ‘was not showing any signs of infection’.

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On April 9, Sarah again called the surgery to ask for painkillers and complained of nausea, sweating, and abdominal pain.

That time she spoke to a pharmacist, who told the court he was unaware of the fact Sarah had had a recent termination and thought she was suffering from pain-killer withdrawal.

She continued to deteriorate and the next day she was taken to Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital.

Sarah was treated as a Covid-19 patient

Blackpool assistant coroner Louise Rae said: “She was suffering from a Group A Streptococcus infection ... which by the time of her admission at hospital had produced sepsis and had progressed to toxic shock.

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“Signs of sepsis were apparent before and on her admission given Sarah’s history and symptoms, but Sarah was treated upon admission to hospital as a Covid-19 patient.

“Prior to admission, Sarah had not been seen by a doctor on either the ninth or tenth of April despite contacting both her GP surgery and the Out-of-Hours Service.

“Her GP on 1 April had not recorded his face-to-face consultation with her nor noted the possibility of infection.”

The coroner added that in hospital the sepsis pathway of treatment was not followed and antibiotics were not given until seven-and-a-half hours after admission.

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She added: “These matters in aggregate impacted on her care and Sarah would not have died had she been admitted to hospital sooner.”

‘Sarah knew she was ill and kept asking for help’

Sarah’s mum Marie said: “I am extremely disappointed that some of the staff responsible for treating Sarah have failed to either accept the part they played in her death or even offer condolences.

“We have had to endure listening to terrible evidence all week and feel we are owed at least that measure of respect.

“Sarah knew she was very ill and kept asking for help. The doctors let her down in the worst possible way and now we all have to try to find a way of living without her when we are all broken by her death.

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“On that awful morning in April, Sarah’s partner telephoned to tell me not to worry, but that Sarah had gone into hospital with a suspected urinary infection.

“He said Sarah had slept on the couch she felt so awful and had woken him up at 2am to say she couldn’t move her arms or legs. She was advised to see her GP in the morning as she already had an appointment arranged.

“Sarah felt so bad that they later called an ambulance and she was taken to A&E.

‘Our hearts are all broken’

Marie said she kept ringing the hospital and eventually a consultant rang her back at around 10pm.

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She said: “He said he didn’t expect Sarah to see the next morning as all her organs were beginning to fail. I was in complete shock as we thought it was just a kidney infection.

“When I rang later and they said they were still working on her, I knew she had gone.

“Afterwards I spoke to her partner but we just could not get our heads around what we were being told. In my opinion, Sarah’s death could have been prevented.

“She kept asking for help over ten terrible days. She then saw a number of doctors in hospital before symptoms of sepsis were finally identified, but it was too late. Our hearts are all broken.”

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The family’s solicitor, Julia Hamilton, a solicitor at Fieldfisher Manchester, is now investigating a negligence case against Sarah’s GP.

She said: “This tragedy should never have happened in the 21st century.”

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