Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hospital admits plaster error over toddler's broken leg

Rafe Powell
Rafe's left leg will remain in plaster for a further two weeks

A toddler with a broken leg was sent home with a plaster on the wrong limb and then hospital staff implied it was his mother's fault for not spotting it.

The error was made when Bella Powell took 21-month-old son Rafe to Torbay Hospital after he fell from his high chair at his Brixham home.

On returning to get the error resolved, Mrs Powell was laughed at by staff and told she should have said something.

The hospital has apologised for the mistake and the comments made by staff.

"It was all quite an ordeal, with Rafe crying as they held him down while they tried to plaster his leg," Mrs Powell told BBC News

"I couldn't believe my ears when the doctor tried to say it was my fault and why hadn't I said - I felt absolutely awful."

We'd kept trying to get Rafe to walk on his leg, but it turns out it was still broken
Bella Powell, mother

Rafe's father Guy complained to the hospital and a meeting was arranged with Andy Mortimore, matron of emergency services at the hospital.

"He was really nice and apologised for everything and we left satisfied after he said practices would be put in place to stop it happening again," said Mr Powell.

In a follow-up letter of apology, Mr Mortimore confirmed measures were now in place to ensure all plaster casts are checked by a second member of staff.

Responding to the Powells' complaint about the attitude of staff, Mr Mortimore said: "The two male members of staff who you felt made inappropriate comments also offer their apologies."

Rafe Powell
Rafe fractured his leg when he slid out of his high chair and fell to the floor

However, Mr and Mrs Powell said things went wrong again shortly after the letter was received.

Rafe was taken back to the fracture clinic to have his leg checked and staff said the X-ray showed everything was fine and removed the plaster.

However, by last weekend Rafe's parents noticed he was not walking properly.

"As the days went on he was walking less and less and we knew we had to do something and the hospital had told us not to hesitate if there was a problem," they said.

When another X-ray was taken, it indicated the fracture was still there.

"The doctor showed us the break and said it was healing but not healed," Mrs Powell said.

"We'd kept trying to get Rafe to walk on his leg, but it turns out it was still broken."

'Clinical decision'

The doctor told Mr and Mrs Powell they had a choice, in either leaving it as it was or having it plastered again. However, he said his recommendation was that the leg should be plastered for at least four weeks.

In a statement, the hospital trust said it was concerned that despite an acceptable clinical decision being taken to remove Rafe's plaster, his parents felt that decision may have compromised their son's recovery.

"Our initial investigation has indicated that the hairline fracture has been healing as expected, and that the most recent plaster was in fact provided to help Rafe become more confident with returning to weight bearing, with a further review of his progress planned," the statement said.

The trust added it would be contacting Mr and Mrs Powell to make sure they have the reassurance they need.

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Exeter Express and Echo Doctors say sorry for putting toddler's wrong leg in plaster - 35 mins ago RAFE HASN'T GOT A LEG TO STAND ON . . - 3 hrs ago
Telegraph Hospital sends toddler home with plaster cast on wrong leg - 18 hrs ago

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