• Experts back Jonnie Meek’s parents’ claims over their son’s death at Stafford Hospital
  • Attorney general now considering application for a second inquest
  • Previous inquest failed to call key witnesses including staff in the room when Jonnie died

The attorney general is considering an application for a second inquest into the death of a three year old boy who died at Stafford Hospital after three independent experts have backed his parents and cast doubt on the original investigation.

The case has been brought by Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group on behalf of the parents of Jonnie Meek, who died suddenly at Stafford Hospital’s children’s unit in August 2014.

In 2015 HSJ revealed concerns that Jonnie’s death was the subject of a “cover up” after his parents uncovered inaccuracies in his medical history, including three cardiac arrests they say never happened, and false information that was given to a child death overview panel.

Jonnie’s parents have always maintained their son died after suffering a severe allergic reaction when he was being trialled on a new milk feed at the hospital in August 2014.

Now three separate clinical experts have supported their claim.

Jonnie, who was born with the rare congenital disability de Grouchy syndrome, died on 11 August 2014 just over two hours after being admitted to hospital to trial a new feed which was put directly into his stomach.

An inquest into his death in January 2015 recorded a verdict of death from natural causes due to pneumonia. But the coroner refused a request from the family’s lawyers to hear evidence from Lauren Tew, a healthcare assistant who was in the room when Jonnie died. In 2015, Ms Tew told HSJ that a false statement was made in her name to Staffordshire’s child death overview panel in an attempt “to cover up” events around Jonnie’s death.

Following HSJ’s revelations and an intervention by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Stafford and Surrounds CCG commissioned an independent investigation which backed Jonnie’s parents and called for a new inquest. The CCG has now obtained two further clinical expert views that back the parents’ version of events.

Dr Donald Hodge, a consultant paediatrician and allergist expert, questioned the findings of the original pathologist Dr Tamas Marton. Dr Hodge found that: “despite the early pathologist saying Jonnie died of pneumonia there was no evidence in life of pneumonia and the findings at post mortem have no relationship to the events of Jonnie’s death. The mode of death described does not fit with pneumonia.”

Dr Andreas Marnerides, a paediatric pathologist, said he found evidence in Jonnie’s lungs of what he called “acute asthma exacerbation” which is common after allergic reactions and which he said was the cause of death brought on by the administration of milk.

When Jonnie was admitted and the feed started, his mother April Keeling said she saw Jonnie develop a rash, vomit once and turn purple before he stopped breathing. She claimed nurses and doctors ignored her concerns despite her son having suffered previous bad reactions to the same feed which led to a hospital admission earlier in 2014.

It was only after using the Freedom of Information Act that the couple discovered inaccurate claims about their son’s care and death in the trust’s records. One statement referred to Jonnie having cardiac arrests and needing to be resuscitated while another said he was admitted to hospital months before his death and was critically ill. His parents say these events never happened.

An investigation by Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, led by head of children’s services Kim Wooliscroft, said Jonnie’s death was a sudden “unexpected decline” but there was no evidence of a reaction to the feed. Ms Wooliscroft sat on the child death overview panel that considered Jonnie’s case.

Jonnie’s father John Meek told HSJ: “There has to be a second inquest now.

“It is unbelievable that the first pathologist didn’t see what the second did. The second pathologist was looking at the same evidence. I am furious at the way we have been treated. How many other post mortems and families are in this situation but don’t even know?”

A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said: “We have received a request for a new inquest into the death of Jonnie Meek. Once all representations are received we will review the case and make a decision as soon as possible.”

Marcus Warnes, accountable officer for the CCG said: “We continue to support the family of Jonnie Meek to get the answers to their questions.”

South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh declined to comment.