Medical staff quizzed over 'missed opportunities' at Coco Rose Bradford inquest

Coco Rose Bradford died from sepsis in 2017.

Doctors treating a six-year-old girl from Cornwall delayed giving her antibiotics for fear of worsening an existing kidney condition, an inquest has heard.

Coco Rose Bradford died after being admitted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital, known as Treliske Hospital, in July 2017.

She was suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhoea but her family said medical staff were “dismissive, rude and arrogant”.

Coco’s mother Rachel Bradford said doctors failed her daughter, while an independent report in 2018 found opportunities were missed which could have changed her course of treatment.

The trust has previously offered an unreserved apology for failings in the six-year-old's care.

‘Cautious and measured’

Dr Laura Guilder, who was the registrar on the night shift at Treliske when Coco was first referred to the paediatric ward on July 26, said the little girl had a working diagnosis of bacterial gastroenteritis.

Coco was admitted to Royal Cornwall Hospital in July 2017.

She told an inquest in Truro that Coco had a raised heart rate and was “bordering on shock”, and had paid close attention to her fluid levels to ensure perfusion – adequate blood flow – to her organs.

Dr Guilder said she had been “cautious and measured” in her approach to delivering intravenous fluids, for fear the patient could develop kidney problems.

The witness said she was also concerned that if fluids were delivered too fast, Coco’s blood vessel could collapse, and a new canula would have to be inserted.

Dr Guilder said she knew the patient was at risk of developing haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) – a rare condition triggered by E.coli which causes the destruction of red blood cells.

She said by the end of her shift, Coco’s condition had improved, adding when she returned the following evening the child seemed “brighter” and had no symptoms of sepsis.

Coco's inquest is scheduled to last until December 10.

The inquest heard antibiotics can facilitate the development of HUS, but that they might still be considered depending on advice from renal and microbiology specialists.

Dr Guilder said due to the child’s ongoing raised heart rate and temperature, senior colleagues had said antibiotics should be considered if there was no evidence of HUS overnight.

But at 11pm on July 27, blood tests revealed Coco’s blood cells were fragmenting.

When asked why at that point she had not proceeded with antibiotics, the witness said: “Our reasoning for not covering with antibiotics was we were concerned about not worsening the HUS.

“We would have been happy to give them if the renal team felt it would not make it worse, but they couldn’t give me that assurance and they wanted to discuss it with a consultant.”

She said “looking back” she would always ask herself why she had not chased up the renal team for an answer about the antibiotics when she had not had a response within a couple of hours.

Dr Guilder added she would “always question” whether Coco’s life would have been saved if antibiotics had been prescribed earlier, but at that point her kidney condition rather than sepsis was the primary concern.

She said the possibility of sepsis had been considered “at all points” in Coco’s treatment.

The witness was also asked by the coroner, Andrew Cox, whether the delay by staff at the Treliske in moving Coco to a high-dependency paediatric ward in Bristol was an example of a cultural problem within the hospital.

Mr Cox asked whether, due to its remoteness, staff at Treliske felt “we need to stand on our own two feet because we can’t rely on anyone else”.

But Dr Guilder said she believed medics had always been able to reach out for support and advice from other hospitals if it was needed.

The inquest, which is due to last until December 10, continues.