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05 October 2017

Chief Executive of University Hospitals Bristol apologises to the parents of Ben Condon and accepts there were failings in his care

Today Robert Woolley, the Chief Executive of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, has written to the parents of Ben Condon to accept that failure to give timely antibiotics to their son Ben contributed to his death and to say how sorry he is.

Robert Woolley, Chief Executive of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said: "I would like to publicly apologise to Mr and Mrs Condon.  We failed to take the opportunity to give Ben timely antibiotics and this contributed to his death. I am also deeply sorry for the additional distress and hurt caused by the wait Mr and Mrs Condon have endured before receiving this explanation."

Ben was admitted to the children's intensive care unit on 11 April 2015 and sadly died on 17 April 2015. Ben's case has been a highly complex one to resolve. He was a premature baby who had been in hospital for much of his short life, and sadly died due to the serious complications of a viral infection which included a secondary bacterial infection.

Earlier this year, Mr Condon brought a claim for clinical negligence against the Trust on his son's behalf, based on the failure to give Ben antibiotics on 16 April 2015.  As a result of this claim the Trust has extensively reviewed again the circumstances of Ben's death, including obtaining additional and further clinical and expert evidence and advice.

Following this thorough reappraisal of the circumstances of Ben's death, the Trust believes that it missed an opportunity to provide Ben with timely antibiotics and that this failure contributed to his death. 

Much of the reason for the delay in clarifying the Trust's position is because medical experts have a range of different views on whether and when antibiotics should have been given to Ben. There has not been a clear-cut consistent medical opinion, as can happen with very complex cases. The issue of whether and when to administer antibiotics continues to be part of a wider medical debate and ultimately this comes down to individual clinical judgement. There will be those clinicians who decide to administer antibiotics and those in a similar situation who will not. This has added to the challenge of determining what should have happened in Ben's treatment and care, compared to what did happen.

Robert Woolley continued: "I would also like to reiterate how very sorry I am that Mr and Mrs Condon were not supported appropriately after Ben's death. We made serious mistakes communicating with them and, as a result, we lost their trust."

The Trust acknowledges it will offer little comfort to Ben's parents but the review of Ben's case has led it to make several improvements both in clinical care and in how it communicates and engages with bereaved families. 

Dr Bryony Strachan, Clinical Chair for the Division of Women and Children's Services, said: "Ben's sad death continues to have a devastating impact on his family and we are truly sorry about this.  We accept that we missed the opportunity to give Ben timely antibiotics and that contributed to his death.  We also know that the way we responded to Ben's parents at times added to their distress and we are very sorry for that. We hope that they can take some comfort that we have learnt lessons from this and that we have already made changes and improvements in light of their and Ben's experience in our care."