Scanner shut to tragic Doncaster teenager

Aimee Garnett
Aimee Garnett

Doctors were unable to run tests they wanted on a dying Doncaster teenager - because it was a weekend.

Dr Rekha Ramanath told an inquest in Doncaster she wanted to use an MRI scanner as doctors battled to help 18-year-old Aimee Garnett.

But because the tests were done only 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, medics struggled to find out what was wrong with her.

Aimee’s death in 2009 came two years before a report revealed patients at the trust which runs the Doncaster Royal Infirmary were more likely to die if admitted at weekends than a weekday.

The hearing was told doctors were trying to find out what was wrong with Aimee, of Lynden Avenue, Adwick, after a series of initial examinations.

She had been admitted to the DRI on October 24 and was still being treated there when she died on November 1.

She had initially been in touch with a Government helpline, set up at the time the NHS was dealing with concerns over swine flu.

But, after taking drugs designed to stop swine flu, Aimee’s right side went numb, and her worried family rang the helpline again.

Staff advised her family to call an ambulance, and medics took Aimee to the DRI where she was admitted to intensive care.

Medical consultant Dr Ramanath said tests showed an echocardiogram was abnormal, and there was evidence of a problem with her heart muscle. But tests did not show why.

Medics wanted to test for myocarditis - an inflammation of the heart muscle usually caused by viral, bacterial, or fungal infections.

But, because it was the weekend, the MRI scanner was not available outside 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

“From a clinical point of view I would have liked to have used it,” Dr Ramanath told assistant coroner Michael Mellun.

“It is better equipped to find smaller lesions than a CT scan.”

Aimee’s dad, Andrew, said swine flu had been at its height during 2009, and his daughter seemed to have symptoms.

“I know there was a big outbreak of swine flu, and contacting the helpline was what you had to do,” he said. “When I rang you got the feeling they were not qualified, but at the time it was the right thing to do because of what was happening across the UK.”

He said it felt ‘unreal’ when doctors later told him his daughter was not going to live.

A report in 2011 by independent group Dr Foster Intelligence, which monitored death rates and treatment times at hospitals nationwide, identified Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation trust as having a higher weekend mortality rate than on weekdays.

And the Dr Foster Hospital Guide found the number of patients dying in the trust’s care on a weekday was 10 per cent higher than national predictions. That rose to 17 per cent on Saturday and Sundays.

The trust now runs MRI scans seven days a week.

The inquest continues today.