09/12/2014 17:07 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Baby Died 'Because Doctors Cancelled Operation Five Times'

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images
Bristol Children's Hospital

A devastated mother claims her 12-day-old baby died after doctors cancelled a life-saving heart operation five times in a week.

Danielle Gatehouse, 23, said staff at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children decided her son Harley Pascoe was 'too healthy' for an immediate operation.

Danielle and partner Lee Pascoe, from Fraddon in Cornwall, are now considering legal action over the treatment Harley, who was born with half a heart, received on ward 32 of the hospital.

However, the Hospital Trust said Harley's operation was 'postponed because he was in a stable condition and we needed to prioritise children with more critical heart disease requiring urgent treatment'.

The Trust added that an investigation was ongoing.

Danielle was induced at 38 weeks after Harley's heart condition was picked up by scans.

He was born at Bristol's St Michael's Hospital in September weighing 7lb 7oz and then transferred to Bristol Children's Hospital.

Danielle said she was told Harley would need three operations to try to insert a shunt into his heart to improve blood flow.

According to The Sunday People, she was told if the operations were successful, he would have an 80 per cent chance of living a normal life.

On the Monday they arrived at ward 32, the couple were told the procedure had been postponed for three days.

Danielle said the operation was postponed again on the Wednesday until Friday, and on the Thursday she was told it was nothing to worry about.

When Friday came, the operation was put back for a third time. Then on Sunday, September 29, the procedure was postponed for a fourth time.

All the time, Danielle said her baby was deteriorating in front of her. The reasons for the postponements given to the parents included that he was 'too healthy and not an emergency' and there was a bed shortage.

It was only after he became an emergency case on the Monday that Harley was rushed into the operating theatre.

But six hours after he was finally operated on, his blood pressure dropped and he could not be revived. Harley died on October 1 last year.

The couple said they still have no explanation for the tragedy, but they believe the wait for an operation severely limited his chances of survival.

They said they are still waiting for official confirmation of the cause of Harley's death, after an inconclusive post mortem.

Danielle told The Sunday People: "We were at his bedside day in, day out, seeing him getting weaker. Yet doctors were repeatedly telling us Harley was not ill enough.

"How sick did our baby have to be? He had half a heart – it doesn't get much worse than that. I can't forgive the hospital for how it treated my baby.

"Five times in a week his operation was cancelled. After they eventually operated, we stroked his tiny hand, whispered to him that we were so proud of how brave he'd been and loved him so much."

Harley was buried on October 18.

A spokeswoman for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust, which runs the children's hospital, told the Bristol Post: "Harley's operation was postponed because he was in a stable condition and we needed to prioritise children with more critical heart disease requiring urgent treatment.

"We offer our sincere condolences to Harley's parents for their sad loss.

"The investigations into his death are continuing; we are in contact with the family and the coroner has not yet decided if an inquest is needed."