Children's hospital ‘will learn’ from Walsall boy’s death

Birmingham Children’s Hospital has insisted it has taken ‘every step possible to learn’ after a schoolboy from Walsall died when he contracted an infection from dust caused by building work.

Jamie Cartwright died at the age of nine after he contracted an infection from dust caused by building work at Birmingham Children's Hospital
Jamie Cartwright died at the age of nine after he contracted an infection from dust caused by building work at Birmingham Children's Hospital

Bubbly and cheeky Jamie Cartwright had gone into the hospital for follow-up treatment after twice beating leukaemia.

But the nine-year-old picked up an infection from dust and died on August 7 last year.

An inquest heard how the hospital had failed to undertake the necessary risk assessments in relation to the effect of the building work on patients.

It has since introduced new policies, which Jamie’s family said they welcomed and hoped would be ‘properly adhered to’ in the future.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital chief executive Sarah-Jane Marsh said: “Everyone at Birmingham Children’s Hospital is totally devastated by the death of Jamie, and while there are no words to take his family’s pain away, we wish to offer our heartfelt sadness at this exceptionally difficult time for them.

“When any child passes away at our hospital, we always examine their care to see if there is anything we could have done to prevent it. In Jamie’s case, we recognise that there is a possibility that he could have been exposed to the aspergillus spores, as a result of our emergency department building work.

“I totally understand why Jamie’s family feel that we let them down, but hope they can take some small comfort from the fact we have taken every step possible to learn from our involvement in Jamie’s care and his tragic death. We have reviewed our building work policy and continue to routinely communicate and engage with each other and our families about the additional risks associated with building works, so that we can further protect all of our vulnerable patients.”

Little Bloxwich CE Primary pupil Jamie was first diagnosed with leukaemia in 2006 when he was just two years old.

After intense chemotherapy he went into remission and his family believed he had beaten the killer disease.

But almost seven years later, a couple of days after Christmas 2012, they were given the distressing news that the condition was back.

Jamie endured more bouts of chemotherapy before undergoing a bone marrow transplant thanks to his 14-year-old brother Aaron who was a perfect donor match.  Dr Sarah Lawson told the Birmingham hearing inquest yesterday that a senior doctor was ‘surprised’ to learn of it and the infection control department raised ‘concerns’ about the risk of ‘dust in the corridors and in A& E’.

Senior Birmingham and Solihull District Coroner Mrs Louise Hunt asked her if on balance of probabilities if it was possible for Jamie to be infected by aspergillus fungus from the work that started in April 2013.

Dr Lawson replied: “He could have done if he wasn’t exposed anywhere else.”

Jamie’s devastated mother Vicki, 41, told the hearing the family had been warned in a visit by hospital staff not to carry out any building or renovation work at home because of his condition.

But she said work was being done at the hospital when they took him for appointments in the months that followed. She said she had noticed dust in corridors but had been reassured that there was no danger. She added that they raised concerns about Jamie’s continuing problems with a cough.

Hospital microbiologist Dr Jim Grey said there had been no prior consultation with the oncology department about the works. He said that on a scale of one to 10 the seriousness of the failure to do this was 10.

Jamie was found to have the life threatening aspergillus following a chest X-ray and CT scan and was admitted to intensive care. But despite treatment he died on August 7.

The cause of death was given as a bleed on the brain, a brain abscess, bone marrow transplant, acute leukaemia and grafted versus host disease.

In a statement afterwards Mrs Cartwright and her husband John, 44, said: “We have heard that the trust has taken action to improve their systems for dealing with building work at the hospital.

“We hope that these steps are both far-reaching and properly adhered to in order to prevent vulnerable immunocompromised children from being treated in an unsafe environment in the future.”

Paying tribute to him earlier this year, Jamie’s uncle, Danny Loundes, of Bloxwich, said: “Despite everything, he was so bubbly, making everyone laugh, and he was so strong too.

“He was doing so well and we all thought he’d be home permanently, way before the end of the year.

“Even after the infection, we thought he’d get better.

“Jamie’s death is still very raw for all of us, it still hasn’t sunk in.”

Family and friends have thrown themselves into fundraising for the Acorns Children’s Hospice in Walsall.