The death of a boy starved of oxygen at Britain’s biggest private children’s hospital is being investigated amid claims vital monitoring equipment was switched off for almost three hours. James Dwerryhouse, 7, from Suffolk, was admitted for a routine operation to create a colostomy bag at London’s Portland Hospital last August 25. He appeared to be in good spirits when he enjoyed a FaceTime session with his family from his bed and went back to sleep shortly after the operation. But a serious incident report reveals nurses removed vital monitoring equipment at 1.15am and did not reconnect it until almost 4am, by which time he had suffered a cardiac arrest.
When his father returned to his son’s bed just before 4am, the child was unresponsive with his eyes closed. When he tried to wake him, he could see his lips were blue and his pupils had become dilated. Emergency services were called but the youngster had lost consciousness before a helicopter could arrive. He later died from a hypoxic-ischemic brain injury caused by breathing problems related to his sleep apnoea.
A Serious Incident Report drawn up by the hospital, where Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie were born as well as celebrities including Victoria Beckham, Liz Hurley and Claudia Schiffer chose to give birth, reveals staff made a series of errors in James’ care. It reveals staff took breaks during the night shift which were longer than hospital rules permitted and failed to document observations of the child throughout the night. Staff also immediately turned off audible alarms when they reconnected the monitor at 3.58am and it is not known how long it took them to call for help.
Anuradha Bhupathiraju, a nurse with more than three decades of experience, was arrested on suspicion of gross negligence and manslaughter. She was bailed ahead of a plea hearing at Southwark Crown Court next month. She is prohibited from leaving the country and must surrender her passport to police.
Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp, a clinical negligence solicitor at Hudgell solicitors who is representing the family, said: “What cannot be disputed in this case is that a huge, unforgivable error was made in that James’ monitoring equipment was left off when it should have been on at all times. Had it been on, any deterioration in James’ condition would have been picked up straight away.
The case is being investigated by the Met’s Child Death Investigation Team. An inquest into the boy’s death is due to take place later this year.
Anuradha Bhupathiraju, who is 62 and from India, has been charged with gross negligence and manslaughter. Her lawyer, Stephen Barnett, said she had been ‘deeply sorry’ for her actions. “She had been attempting to help a vulnerable and sick child but ultimately it was her actions that led to a tragic death,” he added. The couple’s other children, who are aged 11 and 14, have been told of the tragedy and are receiving support from the NHS.