Ellie-May Clark, 5, died of an asthma attack (Picture: PA)
A five-year-old girl died of an asthma attack after a doctor refused to see her because she was late to her appointment, an inquest heard today. Little Ellie-May Clark, who suffered from ‘life-threatening asthma’, was taken to her surgery after falling ill at school.
Mum Shanice Clark had called the clinic for an emergency appointment after Ellie-May had been unable to walk home and was wheezing. But Shanice said she was five minutes late to Ellie-May’s 5pm appointment and then had to wait in line to speak to the receptionist. An inquest heard she reached the reception desk of The Grange Clinic in Newport, South Wales between 5.10pm and 5.18pm.
But because the surgery had a ’10 minute rule’ for lateness, GP Dr Joanne Rowe told Shanice and Ellie-May to return the next day. After being turned away, the little girl was left in tears and asked her worried mother: ‘Why won’t the doctor see me, mummy?’
That night Shanice put Ellie-May to bed and checked on her every ten to fifteen minutes, the inquest was told. But at 10.30pm Shanice found her blue and flailing around on the floor before ringing 999. Shanice said: ‘I tried to give her her pump but she wouldn’t let me.
‘She fell off her bed onto the floor. I turned her light on and I saw her hands and her face were blue. That’s when I rang 999.’ Ellie-May was rushed to hospital on January 25 2015, but died before her mum arrived. Her cause of death was bronchial asthma.
Her mother told the hearing that she had informed the surgery they may be late as she had to arrange last minute childcare and catch a bus. Dr Rowe, who had no patients between 4.50pm and 5.20pm that day, refused to see Ellie-May and said for her to come back the next morning for the walk-in surgery.
Giving evidence, Dr Rowe said receptionist Ann Jones rang her to say that Ellie-May had arrived but the GP had already called in her next patient. Dr Rowe said: ‘She said that the girl had arrived late. She said I’ll tell her to come back tomorrow morning shall I and I said yes.
The inquest heard in March 2014 Dr Rowe had received a letter from a consultant saying Ellie-May was at risk of ‘life-threatening asthma’ but she did not write the information predominantly on the youngster’s file. And on the day of her death Dr Rowe, who had been a GP for 22 years, had not even opened Ellie-May’s medical notes before turning her away. Mrs Jones said it was the first time she had ever turned away an emergency appointment in four years at the surgery.
She said: ‘Some particular doctors would adhere to the ten minute rule more than others. ‘This is the only occasion that I was ever challenged with it with an emergency appointment.’
When asked if she felt uncomfortable turning away a child, Mrs Jones said: ‘I did because I was always taught that you should never turn away children and the elderly.’ The inquest heard Mrs Jones noticed it had been recorded that Ellie-May ‘did not attend’ the appointment – but the receptionist then made a note saying the youngster was late. The hearing continues.