Devon dad whose son died of sepsis says NHS was 'reluctant' to find out what happened

Sam Morrish died from severe sepsis when he was three years old. Credit: Scott Morrish

A dad whose three-year-old son died from sepsis has said a culture of blame means errors are sometimes covered up instead of lessons being learned.

Scott Morrish's son Sam died from severe sepsis in 2012. He was just three years old.

Sam's symptoms were missed and a report has since found he was "failed" by four different healthcare organisations who missed vital warning signs.

Now Scott, from Newton Abbot in Devon, has told a Health Select Committee Hearing in London his grief was made worse by being let down by the NHS complaints system. 

'There was a massive reluctance to look at the details'

Speaking at the hearing, Scott said: "In trying to understand that loss and why he died, there was a massive reluctance to look at the details of what had happened on the night he died.

“I think what should have taken six or seven days just to establish what had happened and why he had died ended up initially taking six months to get a form of local investigation response - but actually six and a half years."

Scott Morrish speaking at a Health and Social Care Committee meeting. Credit: ITV West Country

Sam had initially had flu which developed into the bacterial infection, sepsis.

Sepsis is a treatable condition if antibiotics are given early enough, but after four health services missed the warning signs with Sam he died at Torbay Hospital. 

A previous ombudsman report said Sam and his family were “failed” by these organisations, saying he could have survived if he had been treated properly. 

The report said: “Sadly, this case demonstrates once again that a failure to rapidly diagnose and treat sepsis can have tragic consequences. 

“We have found that had Sam received appropriate care and treatment, he would have survived, and that a lack of appropriate and timely bereavement support compounded the distress caused to his family as a result of the failures in care.

“We have also found failures in the way that the NHS investigated the events that took place, and that this caused the family a further injustice.”

'It is an area that needs to be better understood'

At the Health and Social Care Committee meeting on Tuesday 16 November, Scott said families like his are regularly failed by the complaints system.

He said litigious processes sometimes take years to resolve. He said instead of the NHS learning from mistakes, there seems to be a culture of trying to cover up mistakes.

He told ITV News: "It puts a strain on every relationship you have, on your marriage, on our ability to work, and it doesn't end necessarily at any particular point in time so it comes and goes - it is an area that needs to be better understood I think and that might promote change."

Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt, said the NHS spent £10billion on compensation claims and legal costs last year which were related to clinical negligence.

He said: "These are obviously vast sums of money for the taxpayer and that is money that is not being spent on patient care, but is the legal process actually serving its purpose for families?

“Families also complain about the time taken for things to be resolved with a typical family waiting on average eleven and a half years for a case to be resolved."