Nurse suspended over youngster’s Doncaster hospital death

Daniel Hames aged four. picL'Ross Parry /
Daniel Hames aged four. picL'Ross Parry /

A very experienced nurse who was on duty when a four-year-old boy died after inhaling his own vomit has been suspended.

Her suspension follows failings in her treatment of the child.

Daniel Hames, from Balby, died within hours of arriving at Doncaster Royal Infirmary with a severe stomach bug in March 2013.

Stephanie Marshall was the nurse in charge of the night shift on the Children’s Observation Unit when he died and an investigation was launched amid ‘significant concerns’ about her practice during the shift.

She has now been suspended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) after a committee found she failed to provide adequate clinical care for Daniel and that she didn’t notice he had stopped breathing.

However the committee said she should not be struck off over the incident, which was in contrast to her ‘otherwise unblemished’ career.

Daniel was admitted to the unit at around 2.30am on 3 March 2013, where he was diagnosed with acute viral gastroenteritis.

He was found unresponsive by Ms Marshall at around 7am and was declared dead about half an hour later, following unsuccessful efforts to resuscitate him.

An inquest was held in May last year and his cause of death was found to be the inhalation of vomit caused by the gastroenteritis.

Following a hearing conducted by a panel of the NMC’s conduct and competence committee in London, which Ms Marshall did not attend, the panel concluded that Ms Marshall’s actions during the shift amounted to misconduct.

The panel found that Ms Marshall didn’t find out whether Daniel had been co-operative when another nurse was carrying out observations on him and didn’t record enough detail in his notes.

It also found that she failed to make sure his blood pressure was taken again before 6.30am and that she didn’t realise he wasn’t breathing straight away when she checked on him at 7am.

The panel said that Ms Marshall was a ‘very experienced’ nurse and that she had to face a sanction for the misconduct, but declined to strike her off the register.

The nurse has not worked since Daniel’s death and the panel said the events of that night have had a ‘devastating effect’ on her ‘emotionally and psychologically’.

Announcing the suspension, the committee said: “The panel concluded that a period of suspension would offer sufficient public protection for the period during which it is in force and would protect the public interest.

“The panel concluded that a striking-off order would be punitive and wholly disproportionate in this case involving a one-off sequence of events on one night shift in an otherwise unblemished career.

“It considered that 12 months would be the appropriate period for the suspension order to give Ms Marshall sufficient time to reflect on, and recover from, the incidents on that night.

“It is also an appropriate period to reflect the seriousness of the case and to protect the public interest.”

The coroner returned a verdict of death by natural causes and said death was due to acute aspiration of gastric contents and acute adenoviral gastroenteritis.

Ms Marshall has 28 days to launch an appeal against the suspension. If she does challenge it, she will remain suspended pending the outcome of her appeal.