Baby girl died after doctors wrongly diagnosed her with cow’s milk intolerance and sent her home

A baby girl died after doctors wrongly thought her feeding issues were due to a cow’s milk intolerance. Shortly after her birth in October 2019, Nailah Ally, from Crawley, West Sussex, was diagnosed with necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) – a serious illness which sees the gut become inflamed and start to die. She was also diagnosed with a hole in the heart during the pregnancy. Nailah was taken to hospital on 28 December 2019 and continued to have a swollen stomach and received treatment for suspected sepsis.

However, the doctors failed to perform a barium enema, a test that helps to highlight the large bowel so it can be seen clearly on an X-ray. This test would have helped doctors consider the possibility that her intestine could have narrowed because of the damage caused by NEC.

Nailah was sent home from East Surrey hospital on 7 January 2020, with a follow-up appointment set for three days later. She went into septic shock the following day and an X-ray showed a suspected perforated bowel. Nailah’s condition worsened and she died on 13 January 2020.

A post-mortem examination found that the baby girl died from multiple organ failure caused by NEC and a narrowing of the intestine. Nailah’s parents, Laila Tobota, 26, and her partner Emmanuel Ally asked lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to launch an investigation into her care under Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs East Surrey Hospital.

The legal team identified an NHS investigation which showed that a consultant believed Nailah might have had an intolerance to cow’s milk and changed the formula she was feeding on. Nailah’s mum Laila said her daughter was a ‘fighter’ but that some of the staff ‘were dismissive of our needs’ and claimed her daughter’s feeding issues were often put down to ‘milk intolerances’.

“While it’s three years since Nailah died the hurt and pain we feel is still as raw now as it was then,” she said. “She was the most adorable and beautiful child who didn’t deserve the suffering she had to go through in her short life. Nailah was an absolute fighter and so brave until the end.

“We can’t thank enough the heart surgeons for everything they did to help Nailah. “However, after Nailah was transferred we felt that some staff were dismissive of our needs and that nobody on any ward rounds or staff handovers really asked us about our child.

“It felt like Nailah’s feeding issues were often put down to milk intolerances rather than the focus being on her medical needs.” A spokesperson for Irwin Mitchell said that the Trust had paid an undisclosed out-of-court settlement to Nailah’s parents to help them access the specialist support they needed after her death. However, they did not admit liability.

“A root cause analysis investigation report by the Trust found there was a failure to perform barium enema, which in retrospect, may have found Nailah’s narrowed intestine which she suffered ‘due to her episode of necrotising enterocolitis’,” the spokesperson said.

“The failure to perform the test was down to poor documentation, poor face-to-face handovers between doctors and poor ownership of Nailah’s case by one named consultant, the report found.” A spokesperson for Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust said: “We are very sorry for the experience Nailah’s family had at East Surrey Hospital and our deepest sympathies remain with them at this very difficult time.

“We take any death extremely seriously and as a trust we have already investigated and put in place a thorough action plan to ensure we learn the lessons needed, and importantly, improve our care for future patients.”

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