'It's soul-destroying': Mother tells how baby died after NHS helpline 'failed to spot severity of illness'

The mother of a baby who died after she followed advice given by the NHS's out-of-hours helpline has called a report into the service "soul-destroying".

Melissa Mead, 29, of Penryn in Cornwall, was speaking to GMB after an NHS England report found that 16 mistakes had contributed to the death of her 12-month-old son William.

He died from sepsis as a result of a chest infection in December 2014 but could have been saved if a 111 call handler, who spoke to Mrs Mead, had realised the gravity of his illness.

Melissa Mead explains what went wrong on the 111 call:

Clutching a teddy bear containing William's ashes, Melissa told GMB: "We did what we were told to do we followed their guidance and went to the doctors and we trusted their judgement, their reassurance on multiple occasions.

"We rang 111 because we were concerned ... we listened to the advice given and heeded that advice."

She added: "The system is not sensitive at all to sepsis and to deterioration in a peadiatric patient."

The report also states that a system used by the hotline, which includes a box-ticking questionnaire used by staff who do not have medical training, is not "sensitive" enough to identify when children are deteriorating because of the deadly inflammatory condition sepsis, according to the Daily Mail.

William's parents, Paul and Melissa Mead, in his room. Credit: SWNS

The report suggested a medic would most likely have realised the need for "urgent medical attention" if they had taken the call, instead of staff using the computer system.

Another failure was reportedly by GPs - who saw William six times in the months leading up to his death - to look for signs of sepsis and give him potentially life-saving antibiotics. They also missed the chest infection which contributed to his death.

The report concluded that a "deteriorating paediatric patient" like William was "not easily identified through the structured questioning", called NHS Pathways, used by the 111 call handlers.

Lindsey Scott, director of nursing with NHS England in the South West, told GMB that staff in the south-west had been retrained.

She also told The Mail: "Everyone involved in this report is determined to make sure lessons are learnt from William's death, so other families don't have to go through the same trauma.

"We will only be able to make a real difference if professionals across the country understand how different choices at critical moments might avert a similar tragedy.

"This report isn't about blame, but about learning and awareness. That applies not just to health staff but to parents as well, because both might be in a position where timely action is crucial."

Melissa added: "Sorry doesn't give you any closure because we wake up every day and he's still gone.

"Sorry is a start. It's recognition that things went wrong. It's what happens after that."