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The BBC's Fergus walsh reports
"Cases are at a 50 year peak"
 real 28k

Thursday, 9 March, 2000, 17:53 GMT
Toddler dies after frantic bed search
Tyler Foster
Tyler Foster died after a 60-mile search for expert care
A toddler has died after a desperate search for an intensive care bed took him on a 86-mile trip around three hospitals.

Tyler Foster, who was nearly two, died from meningococcal meningitis despite finally getting expert care at the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham.

News of his day came on the same day that scientists said they had taken a significant step towards the eventual development of a vaccine for the B strain of the disease, from which Tyler suffered.

I blame the system, and I really blame the way in which the government is handling the whole NHS issue

Simon Foster, Tyler's father
Tyler, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, was initially taken by his parents to the local Grantham and District Hospital, but the unit does not have the facilities to treat seriously ill children.

He was given antibiotics and then transferred to the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, but once again the unit did not have a paediatric intensive care unit.

A team of doctors travelled from Nottingham to stabilise the child.

He was given two blood transfusions over eight hours.

Eventually, the doctors decided he should be taken to the Queen's Medical Centre.

Despite expert care, Tyler's condition deteriorated and after nearly a week in intensive care his parents agreed that his life support machine should be switched off.

Formal complaint

Simon Foster
Simon Foster lodged an official complaint
Tyler's family have launched a formal complaint against Grantham and District Hospital, which has launched an inquiry into the case.

Tyler's father Simon said many local people were concerned that paediatric and maternity services at Grantham had been scrapped or downgraded.

He said: "I do feel sometimes that I want to turn round to people and say, if you have a sick child, get them to the best place possible and in my eyes at the moment Grantham is not the best place.

"I don't blame anyone in particular. All the medical staff went above and beyond the call of duty.

"I blame the system, and I really blame the way in which the government is handling the whole NHS issue."

Round the clock paediatric cover at Grantham was removed 18 months ago.

Any child requiring anything other than basic care is automatically transferred to Boston or Lincoln.

However, those judged to be critically ill can be sent straight to Nottingham, Leicester or Sheffield.

Christopher Birch, medical director at the hospital, said: "We would very much like children to be treated here as inpatients if that was feasible.

"But a decision was made to withdraw inpatient children's services here for a variety of reasons."

A spokesman for the National Meningitis Trust said: "It's tragic when a young life is lost. If meningitis is suspected, then the sooner you get medical help the better."

Meningitis is the biggest killer of children under the age of four in the UK.

Cases are currently running at the highest level for 50 years.

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