A three-year-old girl died of cancer days after doctors missed a rectal tumour and sent her home with laxatives, an inquest heard.
Francesca Sio died in hospital less than two weeks after her parents, John and Lorraine, first took her to a GP complaining of constipation and fever in March 2017.
The toddler had recently recovered from a bout of chickenpox and it was initially thought she might have a viral infection.
But she was rushed to the urgent care centre at the Princess Royal Hospital in Kent again days later on March 28 after spending the day at nursery writhing on the floor with pain in her bottom.
The family waited four hours to be seen before a doctor carried out an external rectal exam, administered a suppository and sent them home with a different laxative.
Francesca died when she was brought back with breathing difficulties four days later and a post-mortem revealed a 5cm tumour in her rectum which previously hadn’t been detected.
An inquest into her death at Croydon Coroners’ Court heard a paediatrician didn’t carry out an internal rectal examination – partly because she believed another doctor had already done one.
Dr Uduakobang Ndiyo told the court when she read the urgent care GP’s notes during the hospital visit on March 28 she thought the anal exam recorded included internal checks.
She said: ‘She wasn’t in any pain when I saw her and I thought it would be stressful for her to do an examination. Maybe it was something we could have done.
‘Having a look at the anus was a digital rectal examination, that’s what I thought she [the urgent care GP] meant.
‘Next time maybe I would do it but there wasn’t any worry at that time.’
Following Francesca’s death, her family set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise £75,000 in preparation to mount legal action against the NHS.
They believe that steps could have been taken at points throughout her contact with doctors that could have saved her.
John, 32, wrote on the web page: ‘For our ever dearest Francesca, we will fight and wait however long it takes to find out how our baby girl died.
‘We put all our trust in the GP and hospital staff and it cost us our daughter’s life.’
The bereaved father struggled to contain his sadness as he recalled the family’s visit to A&E.
He said his daughter ‘looked like she was being exorcised’ because of the intense pain.
‘She was in a lot of distress and she was actually lying down the whole time and that’s when her distress was so much that I kind of didn’t recognise Francesca,’ he added.
‘She looked like she was being exorcised. She was in very, very bad pain so I took a video of that.
‘I wasn’t happy that it took four hours for her to be seen and she was the only child who had to wait for more than one hour.
‘I had to take a video of the pain she had to endure because at the time if we would have been seen sooner things might have changed.’
At the time of her death a hospital spokesman said: ‘Francesca Sio died of an extremely rare tumour, which was identified during a post-mortem.
‘The symptoms Francesca presented in A&E were consistent with constipation.
‘Following Francesca’s death we undertook a review of the case and sought an external opinion which did not identify any deficiencies or missed opportunities in her care that would have resulted in a different outcome.’
The inquest continues.