The Health Service watchdog has ordered a hospital trust to investigate its own boss following claims he attempted to cover up the death of a baby with sepsis.
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust has been told it must look into whether Robert Woolley is a ‘fit and proper’ chief executive following the tragedy.
Ben Condon had two cardiac arrests while battling an undiagnosed bacterial infection, which had triggered sepsis.
The eight-week-old boy had not been prescribed antibiotics until an hour before his death at Bristol Children’s Hospital in 2015.
Staff were later recorded admitting he should have had the medication earlier.
Ben Condon (left and right, with his mum Jenny) had two cardiac arrests while battling an undiagnosed bacterial infection, which had triggered sepsis
The same tape then caught NHS bosses attempting to cover their tracks, discussing deleting the conversation.
Ben’s parents, Allyn, 44, and Jenny Condon, have campaigned to show Mr Woolley has frequently changed his story and encouraged colleagues to do the same to stop the truth about the case coming out.
Now, the CQC has begun an investigation into whether the trust is meeting its responsibilities.
It does not have the authority to investigate individuals, but it is able to look at whether a trust is breaching its responsibilities by who it employs.
Documents seen by the Daily Mail suggest the investigation centres around the actions of Mr Woolley.
Ben’s parents, Allyn, 44, and Jenny Condon, have campaigned to show Robert Woolley has frequently changed his story
The chairman of the trust, Jeff Farrar, has also commissioned an independent investigation. Mr Woolley was appointed the trust’s chief executive in September 2010 and earned a salary of around £190,000 last year.
Following news of the inquiry, Mr Condon, of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, said: ‘There is only one outcome for this. If you cover up a baby’s death, you get removed from your job.’
But the father, who has picketed outside the hospital every day for the last 18 months, remained sceptical. ‘Nothing makes me hopeful any more,’ he said.
Ben was born at 29 weeks at Southmead Hospital in Bristol in February 2015 and spent seven weeks in intensive care.
He went home with his parents on April 7, but he began coughing and sneezing and was returned to hospital two days later.
His parents were told their son effectively had a ‘common cold’ and said they were repeatedly assured he would get antibiotics.
In fact, he was also suffering from an undiagnosed bacterial infection, which had triggered sepsis.
Sepsis was eventually diagnosed and antibiotics given when it was far too late. Sepsis claims 44,000 lives a year and in 2016 the Mail launched a campaign to improve care and raise awareness.
It is an over-reaction to infection when the immune system turns on the body itself.
In July 2015 Mr and Mrs Condon met doctors to ask why staff failed Ben.
Damning evidence caught by chance on dad’s phone
Allyn and Jenny Condon met Dr Paul Mannix (PM), Dr Margrid Schindler (MS) and manager Julie Vass (JV) to discuss their son’s death, Mr Condon put his phone on the table to record the conversation. The medical team used a dictaphone.
Everyone is in the room.
Mr Condon: We’ve been lied to along the way, we’ve been misled with information.
Mrs Condon: We didn’t get told how he [Ben] died for seven weeks. It’s disgusting.
Condons leave the room for a break.
PM: But Margrid, they are absolutely right.
MS: They’ve got a point. Erm…
PM: These are not bolshy… misinformed parents are they?
The doctors then realise their dictaphone is still recording.
MS: Is there any possibility of taking off that last…
JV: …part of that? I’ll go back when we finish and take that out.
MS: I just forgot that it was still recording, erm, ’cause…that could get us into difficulty.
Dr Mannix realises the Condons’ phone is still recording.
PM (whispers): This is recording.
JV: I don’t know how to do it without deleting the whole thing.
MS (speaking openly): The difficulty is though you know with infants and infection is that even if we had treated it earlier it’s not to guarantee that the outcome would have been different.
Dr Mannix tries to muffle the Condons’ phone
PM: I struggle to see why he wasn’t given antibiotics, if on the Tuesday they’ve said ‘If he gets worse give him some antibiotics’.
Mr and Mrs Condon return
PM (holding their phone): I should have realised that this was on. I don’t know how to stop it.
Mrs Condon: Is it saved?
Mr Condon: I don’t know.
PM: No, I didn’t touch any buttons, I just put my fingers over the microphone.
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust has been told it must look into whether Robert Woolley is a ‘fit and proper’ chief executive following the tragedy
When the couple left the room, medics were recorded agreeing that he should have been given antibiotics much sooner.
Then, in an appalling attempt to cover their tracks, they discussed deleting the conversation.
The conspiracy only came to light because Mr Condon, a former Olympic sprinter, and his wife had left their phone recording while they were out of the room.
In an email to the CQC, Mr Condon said: ‘Following [Ben’s] death what has unfolded has highlighted more than just failings in care but a disgusting culture of cover up. ‘[Mr Woolley] is a liar who has intentionally covered up details of a baby’s death.’
The CQC cannot sack Mr Woolley but can punish the trust if it decides he is not fit for purpose.