Family who rushed boy, 7, to A&E with meningitis symptoms are stunned to receive letter accusing them of wasting NHS time

Georgina Houghton, 33, called NHS Direct one weekend after son Colby, 7, developed a temperature, vomiting and sensitivity to light
Told the little boy might have meningitis and needed to go to A&EDashed to hospital where doctors diagnosed a viral infection
Days later Colby received letter from family GP, lambasting him for wasting NHS time and not consulting GP first

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UPDATED:

17:09 GMT, 6 December 2012

When her young son Colby became increasingly ill one weekend, Georgina Houghton became convinced he needed professional help.

After calling NHS Direct and describing his symptoms – including a terrible headache, temperature, vomiting and sensitivity to light – she was told it might be meningitis.

Mrs Hougton, 33, was advised to take Colby, seven, to hospital as quickly as possible and go with another adult in case his condition deteriorated en route.

Colby Houghton's mother was told by NHS Direct to take him to A&E with suspected meningitis. The family received a stinging letter from the local medical centre a few days later, accusing them of wasting NHS time

Colby Houghton's mother was told by NHS Direct to take him to A&E with suspected meningitis. The family received a stinging letter from the local medical centre a few days later, accusing them of wasting NHS time

At hospital, staff quickly established the schoolboy didn’t have the potentially deadly bug but was suffering from a viral infection and sent him home with antibiotics.

But Mrs Houghton was left outraged a few days later when a letter arrived – addressed to her son – admonishing him for not going to his GP first.

It said: ‘A&E is for life-threatening conditions such as heart attack or stroke and for the care of people who show the symptoms of serious illness or who are badly injured.’

The mother-of-four attacked the letter yesterday, saying it could put lives at risk by discouraging parents from seeking medical help for their children.

‘I was so angry that they would make us feel that we were wrong to seek medical advice over something like that,’ she said.

‘The letter said A&E is only for people with serious symptoms. How much more serious does it need to be for a child of seven ‘This sort of thing needs to be stopped – it’s putting people’s lives at risk. It could put people off taking their children to hospital when they are seriously ill.’

Colby developed a temperature at his home in Arlesey, Bedfordshire, on Friday, November 9. /12/06/article-2244044-00759F2800000258-509_634x347.jpg” width=”634″ height=”347″ alt=”Colby's parents rushed him to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage on the instructions of NHS Direct. Doctors there established he had a viral infection and sent him home with antibiotics” class=”blkBorder” />

Colby's parents rushed him to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage on the instructions of NHS Direct. Doctors there established he had a viral infection and sent him home with antibiotics

‘We were really worried. If a kid is so ill they don’t want to watch TV or play with their toys, you know something is wrong.

‘NHS Direct said get him to A&E immediately and take another adult in case he takes a turn for the worse on the way so someone is free to call 999 as the other drives. That scared us even more.

She and her husband Gavin, 34, a commercial kitchen fitter, dashed over to Lister Hospital in Stevenage.

Staff there confirmed the viral infection and advised his parents to keep giving him fluids and the antibiotics.

A GP visited him on Monday and he made a full recovery a couple of days later.

The letter from the surgery, Arlesey Medical Centre, arrived on November 17 and was opened by Mrs Houghton.

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for 55 GP practices in the area, said the surgery had not realised advice had been given by NHS Direct.

A spokesman added: ‘It’s current practice for some GP surgeries to write to their patients advising them of the importance of using their A&E departments for emergencies only and to promote the use of their GP service or the local out-of-hours GP service for non-emergencies.

‘We very much regret if the letter caused distress but it was intended to help the family make the right choice about the service they need to ensure they receive the best possible health care in the future.’