A six-year-old girl thought to have died from sepsis was in fact suffering from a blood condition triggered by E coli infection, an inquest has found.
Coco Rose Bradford was taken to the Royal Cornwall hospital in the summer of 2017 suffering from stomach problems and later transferred to the Bristol Royal hospital for children, where she died.
The following year an independent review flagged up failings in her care in Cornwall and the Royal Cornwall hospitals trust apologised for how it had treated her.
Her family were left with the belief she had died of sepsis and could have been saved if she had been given antibiotics.
But on Friday, coroner Andrew Cox, sitting in Truro, found that Coco died from multiple organ failure caused by haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). The inquest heard there is no proven treatment for HUS.
Cox said Coco’s family had been misled over the sepsis diagnosis, which he said was deeply regrettable, adding: “As a matter of fact, I find Coco had overwhelming HUS, not overwhelming sepsis.”
During the inquest, the court heard Coco’s family felt staff at the Cornish hospital were “dismissive, rude and arrogant” and did not take her condition seriously.
Cox found that although staff had recognised the risk of HUS from the moment Coco was admitted, this was not clearly set out in a robust management plan. The coroner also said a lack of communication had made Coco “something of a hostage to fortune”.
He found Coco died from natural causes, specifically HUS arising as a complication from E coli infection.
After the hearing Coco’s family said: “Four and a half years after Coco died, three years after the trust fully accepted a series of failings in their care, we heard for the first time in court the suggestion that Coco did not have sepsis.”
They said they felt they had been misled for years, adding: “Coco should now be at secondary school, she should be brightening our lives with her gorgeous smile and living her best life. We will never come to terms with life without Coco in it.”
Royal Cornwall hospitals NHS trust said it profoundly regretted failings in Coco’s care.
Medical director Dr Allister Grant said: “While the coroner has concluded, based on the expert evidence, that different treatment would not have avoided Coco’s tragic death, this does not take away from the fact that we let Coco and her family down.
“We also regret Coco’s family has been caused additional distress by the belief that Coco’s poorly condition was explained by sepsis, as opposed to an overwhelming inflammatory condition called HUS.”