Better train NHS 111 call handlers, says coroner

More children could perish unless urgent action is taken to better train NHS 111 call handlers in recognising symptoms of acutely sick youngsters.

That is the view of senior coroner Ian Arrow, who said that the tragic death of Sebastian Hibberd was the result of staff failing to spot warning signs that part of his bowel had collapsed. The six-year-old later suffered a cardiac arrest at home while waiting for medical treatment.

A Prevention of Future Deaths Report has now demanded NHS England and NHS Digital carry out a review of their procedures, saying call handlers were not being “adequately assisted” by the algorithm used to assess patients over the phone.

Arrow said in the report: “In my opinion, there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken. Following the inquest, I received submissions that without changes in the NHS Pathways the 111 call handlers will not be adequately assisted by the Pathways to recognise the acutely unwell child.”

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