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Toddler dies after doctors repeatedly dismissed symptoms as chickenpox

Amelia Jones

| Last updated 

Toddler dies after doctors repeatedly dismissed symptoms as chickenpox

Featured Image Credit: Jeanette Teare / Alamy Stock Photo

A jury has confirmed the death of a 'cheeky, happy' 16-month-old boy from Sheffield was contributed to by the 'neglect' of staff at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

James Philliskirk was found unresponsive at home on May 14th 2022, following three days of a sudden and severe severe illness.

An inquest detailed how his parents, Helen and Daniel, were 'dismissed and ignored' by doctors at the hospital - who claimed his sepsis was chickenpox.

Caused by a severe Group A Strep skin infection, doctors failed to notice the warning signs of sepsis, despite his parents mentioning a lesion on his wrist that was not healing.


The inquest concluded on 27th April and The Trust has reportedly set out an action plan to learn from the tragedy.

The Philliskirk family made a statement about their son, which said: “James was our 16-month old son. He was a fun, happy, cheeky and active little boy.

"He was a much-loved son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend. James managed to fit a lot into his short life, despite the Covid-19 restrictions that were in place during the first few months of his life.

"He was an extremely special little boy who is absolutely adored by his family."

Sheffield Children's Hospital, Western Bank, Sheffield. Credit: A.P.S. (UK) / Alamy Stock Photo
Sheffield Children's Hospital, Western Bank, Sheffield. Credit: A.P.S. (UK) / Alamy Stock Photo

They continued: “There are no words to describe how much our little boy meant to us, how much joy he brought to us and those around us and how he still is profoundly loved by us all.

"We will never move on from James’s death but it would not be healthy, right, nor would James want us to continue as we currently are, so we must try and move forward in some way.

"We were so lucky to have James for 16 months and we continue to be proud that we are his parents.


"We want everyone to remember our beautiful little boy who was cheeky, self-directed and had the most wonderful smile.”

The court recounted the nightmare events of the days running up to the toddler's death, which saw his parents feeling 'dismissed and ignored'.

Two weeks before falling ill, James had recovered from a bout of chickenpox but fell ill again on 11th May.

His new condition was put down to chickenpox and he was prescribed chamomile lotion and antihistamines despite James’ parents telling A&E staff that he had chickenpox and had been in contact with Scarlett fever.


The concerns of James’ GP were ignored and an email to hospital staff was reportedly never read.

The court heard how his parents were never spoken to about sepsis during either hospital visit.

The family was again sent home at 5pm with his mum recalling he 'looked so sad'.

James was found unresponsive in his cot that night.


Helen told the jury: "We were in complete shock. We did not understand what was happening. I felt trapped because there was so many people in our bedroom. It was like watching a movie. It didn’t feel real.”

Tragically, nothing could be done to save James' life.

The inquest verdict read: "Following a number of assessments in hospital James was misdiagnosed and was not provided with treatment in line with departmental guidance. He developed sepsis and died at home on 13 May 2022. His death was contributed to by neglect."

The family are organising a series of ‘16 things’ in James’ memory to commemorate the number of months he lived.

Friends and family have crowd funded a bench in Bole Hill Park and a wooden fish plaque at The Deep in Hull, a climbing frame was created in his memory at Bole Hill Nursery and his family donated to 4Louis charity, who provide memory boxes for parents and carers of babies and children who have died.

Dr Jeff Perring, Medical Director at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: "I would like to extend my sympathies to James’s family.

"We are sorry that the care James received fell below the high standards we set ourselves and that James’ family expected of us. We accept fully the jury’s conclusion.

"Our internal investigation showed that there were failings in James’s care, and we have taken immediate action to address these failings."

Topics: News, UK News, Health, Parenting

Amelia Jones
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