‘I truly hope our loss is not in vain’ – mother of asthma death teenager Tamara Mills

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The mum of a teenage girl who died from an asthma attack says she hopes that lessons will be learned from her family’s tragedy

South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney ruled that Tamara Mills’ death was contributed to by a lack of co-ordination between health professionals.

Tamara Mills died at South Tyneside District Hospital after suffering an asthma attack.

Tamara Mills died at South Tyneside District Hospital after suffering an asthma attack.

The 13-year-old, who lived on the Woodbine Estate, South Shields, died on April 11, last year at South Tyneside District Hospital.

She suffered a cardiac arrest after an asthma attack and could not be saved.

Mr Carney said at the end of the four-day hearing: “The premature death of this young woman was contributed to by a lack of appreciation, and or reaction to the deteriorating nature of her chronic condition, and to the absence of any planning to direct, monitor, manage and co-ordinate her care.”

After the hearing, Tamara’s mum Dawn Wilson issued a statement through Browell Smith & Co Solicitors.

I hope that the recommendations made in relation to the treatment of asthma patients in response to Tamara’s death will be implemented to prevent future deaths and other families suffering as we have. I truly hope that our loss has not been in vain.

Dawn Wilson, Tamara’s mum

She said: “Tamara was a wonderful daughter who, although she lived a life limited by her condition of asthma, was determined never to let this hold her back.

“Like all 13-year-olds Tamara was full of hopes and dreams for her future.

“She was a vibrant and very special girl and no day will pass when Tamara will not be in our thoughts.

“Although as a family we lived daily with the effects of Tamara’s illness, the admissions to hospital and frequent visits to her GP, at no time did I ever think that Tamara’s asthma could or would kill her.

“I trusted the professionals responsible for Tamara’s care.

“Asthma is not of itself a fatal condition however, I have learned through the inquest process and the evidence given by experts that more could and should have done for Tamara.

“The coroner, Mr Carney, has found that had very simple guidelines been followed to manage her condition, and had Tamara been referred to an appropriate specialist, her death could and would have been prevented.

“This has made coming to terms with her death even more difficult.

“I hope that the recommendations made in relation to the treatment of asthma patients in response to Tamara’s death will be implemented to prevent future deaths, and other families suffering as we have.

“ I truly hope that our loss has not been in vain.”

Health bosses said they would work to ensure that lessons were learned.

A joint statement from NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), NHS England, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to Tamara’s family at this difficult and distressing time.

“We will now work with the local review panel to consider the coroner’s findings in detail and ensure that every lesson is learned from this tragic situation.”

Tamara ‘never referred to specialist care for asthma’

Life-long sufferer Tamara Mills died after an asthma attack on April 11, last year.

She suffered a cardiac arrest on the way to hospital and could not be saved.

A pathologist gave her cause of death as acute exacerbation of bronchial asthma.

An inquest into her death heard Dr Georgina McCann, a GP at the Farnham Medical Centre, in Stanhope Road, South Shields, admit there had been “a failure to recognise” the practice’s role in her treatment and that they “missed picking up on the high- risk state of her asthma”.

The inquest heard Tamara was never referred to specialist respiratory care. Dr Shaun Sandbach, a GP and senior partner at the surgery, told the hearing that “in retrospect” they should have.

Dr Katherine Eastham, a consultant paediatrician with special interest in respiratory paediatrics at Sunderland Royal Hospital, had written to consultant paediatrician Dr Gabriel Okugbeni, director for paediatrics at South Tyneside District Hospital and the lead clinician caring for Tamara, offering to see the teenager in her specialist clinic.

This followed Tamara suffering a near-fatal asthma attack in November 2013. She never heard back from him.

Dr Okugbeni told the inquest that he didn’t refer Tamara – who had been working to lose weight – because he feared the steroids she would be prescribed would cause her to gain weight.

Dr Eastham had prepared an emergency plan for Tamara in the event of another attack, but there was no plan for her continuing care.

Mr Carney said the focus was to treat her each time she had an attack rather than in the continuation of her care and preventing future attacks.