Boy, 7, with suspected meningitis slammed for going to A&E

A MOTHER who thought her son had contracted meningitis has hit out at an “irresponsible” letter from the NHS, which criticised her for taking the seriously ill child to A&E.

Worried Georgina Houghton rang NHS Direct, after son Colby appeared severely ill, and an advisor urged her to immediately take the seven-year-old to A&E..

Mrs Houghton and husband Gavin were relieved when it turned out he had a virus, not meningitis as feared, but that soon turned to anger when a letter arrived in the post from Arlesey Medical Centre, claiming Colby should have gone to a GP instead.

Mrs Houghton, who lives in Lymans Road, Arlesey, told the Comet: “I was absolutely furious.

“We kept him at home for as long as we could, but we were told to take him in. He always has the energy to get up and play, but he didn’t get out of bed and all he wanted to do was sleep.

“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.”

The letter, much to Mrs Houghton’s anger, was also addressed to Colby, although he didn’t open it.

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He has now recovered from the virus, but Mrs Houghton says she – and others – are worried about using A&E in the future. The GPs surgery had been shut when the family rang NHS Direct.

“We’ve spoken to people since, and they said now they wouldn’t dare go,” said the mother of four.

“This needs to be stopped, it’s putting people’s lives at risk. People shouldn’t feel like they can’t take children there, it shouldn’t be like that. It’s irresponsible.”

She added: “Most people who go to A&E hope to be reassured – they don’t want it to be the worst case scenario. We were so relieved when we found out [it wasn’t meningitis].”

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, a new umbrella organisation responsible for the 55 GP practices in the area, said the GP’s surgery had not been aware of advice given by NHS Direct prior to the letter being sent out.

A spokesman added: “It is 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 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.”