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Teenage girl's death from leukaemia highlights national shortage of haematologists, inquest told.


A coroner has called for action to resolve a national shortage of haematologists after a teenage girl’s death from leukaemia.

Katie Wilkins, 14, died after failures in her treatment at Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Liverpool.

She had suffered a catastrophic bleed on the brain but was under the care of an oncologist, not a haematologist.

Liverpool and the Wirrall assistant coroner, Katie Ainge, heard national recruitment problems meant bosses were unable to recruit the right staff.

The inquest heard how medics at Warrington Hospital could have identified Katie Wilkins’ rare form of acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APML) earlier than their diagnosis on 26 July 2020.

The teenager was taken to Alder Hey and given prescriptions as part of her care plan, but communication failures between the haematology and oncology teams meant she did not receive the treatment and died on 31 July.

The inquest heard APML patients at Alder Hey are managed between both haematology and oncology teams.

Expert witness, Dr Cathy Farrelly, told the inquest that it was almost unheard of for an oncologist to manage patients with the condition.

Alder Hey haematologist, Dr Russell Keenan, said he had raised his own concerns about the matter after Katie died.

The assistant coroner heard the trust kept the same arrangements in place due to difficulties recruiting haematologists.

Katie Wilkins’ parents, Jeanette Whitfield and Jonathan Wilkins, said in a statement: "The evidence that we have listened to in court from the specialist consultants stating that the care of our daughter should have been under the care of a haematologist, and that our beloved daughter would be here today if she had received that care is devastating.

"As parents, we are incredibly angry and will continue to raise this issue so that future families will not have to go through what we have."

Assistant coroner, Ms Ainge, prepared a prevention of future deaths report in which she expressed her concern that oncology consultants continue to be the lead consultants for care of APML patients at Alder Hey and highlighted the recruitment issues.