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Sepsis victim may have survived if treated earlier

Author: Lynsey Woodall

An inquest in Hull this week concluded that a young Team GB triathlete from Cottingham, who tragically died in Hull Royal Infirmary from meningococcal septicaemia, might have survived if she had been given antibiotics earlier.

Ellie Penrose, 18, had visited the Accident and Emergency department at Hull Royal Infirmary twice in the 24-hours preceding her death.

When Miss Penrose was initially taken to A & E by her parents, late on 12 August 2015, she was suffering with sickness, headache, aversion to light and blotches on her face.

She was seen in the early hours of the next day by Dr Don Hettiarachchi, a junior doctor who was in his first week of A & E shifts. He diagnosed gastroenteritis and dehydration before discharging Miss Penrose with painkillers.

The junior doctor failed to consult with a senior member of staff, instead he had briefly approached another trainee doctor for a second opinion.

Miss Penrose’s condition continued to deteriorate and following a 999 call she was rushed by ambulance back to hospital. However, she was not given antibiotics until 2 hours after her arrival. She died a short time later of sepsis caused by a meningococcal infection.

A serious incident report prepared by the clinical director for emergency medicine at the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Dr Mark Simpson, confirmed that there had been a “failure in care” provided by the Trust and that Miss Penrose had been “inappropriately discharged”.

Coroner’s report

The Coroner, Professor Paul Marks, brought in an expert on infectious diseases, who found that Miss Penrose would not have died if she had been given antibiotics when she first attended A & E.


Sepsis is a life threatening condition which arises when the body’s response to an infection causes damage to its own tissues and organs.  If the signs of sepsis are not recognised early and treatment administered promptly, the condition can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and death.

If you have any concerns about the standard of care and treatment that you, or a member of your family has received from your GP or hospital, please contact us for a confidential, no obligation consultation.