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Tragic baby dies despite repeated visits to out-of-hours Harmoni GP service

Baby Axel Peanburg King died after being seen several times by out-of-hours GP service, Harmoni. Picture: PA Baby Axel Peanburg King died after being seen several times by out-of-hours GP service, Harmoni. Picture: PA

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
6:31 PM

A seven-week old baby died of pneumonia despite his mother being told by under-fire GP service Harmoni his vital signs were good, an inquest has heard.

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Baby Axel Peanberg King stopped breathing while waiting to see a doctor at the Whittington Hospital in Highgate, but a Harmoni receptionist told his mum to wait her turn - until an off duty nurse spotted the danger the baby was in.

GPs from the privately-run out-of-hours GP service then battled to save baby Axel’s life, but it was too late.

Fighting back tears at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Monday (February 25), Axel’s mum, Linda Peanberg King, said: “It was a tense situation, doctors were almost fighting among themselves to get everything done.

“When a doctor came to see me in the relatives’ room, I knew the battle had been lost.”

Axel’s mother took him to see the family doctor after he fell ill in October last year, who diagnosed a probable viral infection.

But the baby had not improved by the next evening so his mother contacted out-of-hours service Harmoni and Axel was seen by a doctor who said his vitals signs were good and his lungs were clear.

His mother said: “On the Friday, I had allowed myself to be reassured, but my gut feeling was taking over.”

She and her husband, Alistair, then called Harmoni the following day.

When Dr Muttu Shantikumar called them back he was “very abrupt and very short” as he made an appointment for Axel for 4pm, the inquest was told.

Mrs Peanberg King, who lives in Islington, said: “I arrived at the Harmoni unit at 3.50pm but had to stand in a queue and was told they were busy. There were six people in front of Axel.

“I could not see his chest move, so I pinched his foot but did not get a reaction.

“I asked the receptionist when he would be seen, becoming tearful.

“She explained there were still three people in front of me, so I sat down again.

“An off-duty paediatric nurse was looking at him. She said, ‘You need to go through straight away’.”

Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said to Dr Shantikumar: “If you are going to take on a task as responsible as triaging a seven-week-old baby, you have to do it responsibly.”

The inquest was adjourned and will be continued on Thursday (February 28).

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