A critically ill little girl died hours after a GP refused to see her because she turned up a few minutes late for an emergency appointment.

We originally shared this story in February 2017, at the time the doctor was still practising after escaping with a ‘slap on the wrist’ at a secret disciplinary hearing, reported Daily Mail.

Ellie-May Clark, five, died of an asthma attack after Dr Joanne Rowe refused to see her – despite having previously been warned the girl was at risk of suffering a life-threatening seizure.

The child’s distraught mother, Shanice, said they were just four minutes late for the appointment.

An official report, uncovered by The Mail on Sunday, stated they were eight minutes late, but Shanice insisted that was incorrect as she checked the time on her mobile phone when she arrived.

They were sent home and told to return in the morning, but Shanice discovered her ‘bright and happy’ daughter having an asthma attack and not breathing an hour after she put her to bed that night. She died minutes later.

Dr Rowe, 53, was suspended for six months on full pay after Ellie-May’s death in Newport, South Wales in January 2015. The case was heard behind closed doors because the GMC allows GPs to avoid public ‘fitness to practise’ hearings if they accept a proposed sanction – a process designed to help doctors avoid the ‘stress’ of public scrutiny.

Dr Rowe agreed to accept a written warning not do it again.

Ellie-May’s grandmother, Brandi, said: ‘We’ve never even had an apology from Dr Rowe, who got away with just a slap on the wrist after her clock-watching attitude killed our beautiful girl.

‘She has been allowed to get on with her life, get another job and forget about it. But we have been left with nothing but pain. Ellie-May has been denied the life she should have had.’

A report from the local health board, which oversees GPs’ surgeries, told how Shanice rang The Grange Clinic for an emergency appointment at 3.20pm on January 26, 2015, as Ellie-May had suffered an asthma attack at school. Surgery staff knew the girl, and had helped her cope with five asthma ‘exacerbations’ in the previous six months. She had also ended up in a high dependency unit five times before that.

A GP called Shanice back at 4.32pm, agreed Ellie-May needed a face-to-face consultation, and offered a 5pm emergency slot with Dr Rowe.

Shanice arrived at the surgery with Ellie-May just after 5pm. According to the NHS report, Shanice said she arrived at ‘about 5.08pm’.

However, she insisted to this paper it was 5.04pm. Mother and daughter then waited several minutes while the receptionist dealt with a phone call and another patient.

The receptionist finally addressed Shanice at 5.18pm, the report notes, calling through to Dr Rowe to ask if she would see them. According to the receptionist’s account, the GP then ‘shouted something like “No I’m not seeing her, she’s late”.’

At 10.35pm Shanice discovered Ellie-May was having an asthma attack and had stopped breathing. She rang 999 but despite attempts by family, ambulance paramedics and doctors at Royal Gwent Hospital, Ellie-May could not be saved.

An investigation found the ‘root cause’ of the child’s death was that Dr Rowe ‘refused to see Ellie-May because she was brought in late’. It also noted that months earlier a hospital paediatrician had written to Dr Rowe warning that Ellie-May was ‘at risk of another episode of severe / life-threatening asthma’.

Despite this, the report said, Dr Rowe ‘did not make any clinical assessment of EM before refusing to see her’ and failed to give her mother any ‘safety netting advice’.

UPDATE 28 Feb 2018

In a heartbreaking moment, Ellie-May had asked her mother: “Why won’t the doctor see me?”

On Tuesday at Newport Coroner’s Court, Dr Rowe admitted she failed to look at records which showed Ellie-May was in danger of a life-threatening asthma attack, and had previously been in intensive care, Daily Mail reports.

When questioned by Coroner Wendy James about the circumstances that led to the clinic turning the girl away, Dr Rowe said: “I was busy seeing to the other patient that I had with me”.

“If you have 25 patients to see in a morning or afternoon and a lot of people are 15 minutes late or 20 minutes late you are never going to be able to manage your work,” Dr Rowe said.

Ms James said the girl was “let down by the system”.

“Ellie-May Clark died from natural causes where the opportunity to provide potential lifesaving treatment was missed,” she told the court.

“Ellie-May’s care was disjointed, she was seen by three different doctors in the five days before she died. Had there been one doctor there might have been a different outcome. It was unacceptable, especially when the patient is a five-year-old child with a history of acute asthma.

“Ellie-May’s care plan was neither robust nor effective. Lessons must be learned, Ellie-May was let down by the system.”

Mum, Shanice. said after the hearing ‘I’m disappointed that the coroner ruled out neglect – we all felt there was enough evidence to show my little girl was neglected by the medical profession.

‘I will have to live with the fact that my little girl was sent home to die by a doctor who refused to see her because we were a few minutes late.

‘I want justice for Ellie-May and I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to another child somewhere else.

‘All surgeries should have safeguards to make sure a child as ill as Ellie-May was is seen and given the care they need.

‘I’m glad the doctor has apologised, it was nice of her, but I’ve waited three years for that.’

The family solicitor Justin Chisnall said Ellie-May’s case was an example of ‘obvious neglect’.

‘The coroner found there had been grave failures and that Ellie-May was let down by the system’, he told reporters.

RIP little one

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Image via Daily Mail

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  • Doctors like this are not needed. We all deserve to have Doctors that are in the job because they want to help people. This Doctor is obviously in it for the money first, people second.


  • GP’s are notorious for keeping patients waiting for their appointments… this is so wrong on so many levels. RIP Ellie-May xo


  • That is just so totally devastating.


  • That’s horrible! People like that shouldn’t be doctors. It’s obviously all about the money- would it have killed the doctor to run a little behind and have to work back a little? No. But it killed this poor little girl.


  • Such a tragic outcome. But why didn’t they take her to the emergency department at their local hospital once the Dr had refused to see her? Certainly not an excuse from the GP – she will have to live with this guilt forever.


  • This is horrendous and I feel so sad and sorry for this family. Just heartbreaking. Where is the accountability? The care? I thought children were a priority. Just so sad, and preventable.


  • Poor little love.
    Love to the family x


  • That is unbelievable. Words can’t describe what I feel for this poor family or what I have to say about the Dr. He will have to live with his actions for the rest of his selfish life.


  • What a shocking situation! Doctors are notorious for running late with over-booked appointments – so it’s okay for patients to wait for them but they draw the line at patients being late! Ludicrous! Poor girl!


  • No words !
    Some practices warn with fines when you’re too late, but refusing care ??!!
    Last week I was too late for a GP appointment because of an accident on the road. I explained it to the assistant -who said it was fine- and that’s how it should be !
    When I’m concerned because of the physical condition of one of my kids, I call my husband to come home per direct and head towards emergency


  • The doctor should have still seen her BUT if the mum what that worried about her daughter she should have gone to the ER.
    It’s easy to switch the blame to feel better ! They are both at fault, the doctor and the mum.


  • How tragic. I believe the dr should have for more than just a slap on the wrist. That poor little girl and her family


  • This such a tragic situation. I feel so bad for the family involved and the GP will have to live with his/her choice for the rest of their lives.


  • shame on the doctor! the mother should have just gone to the hospital instead.


  • What double standards this doctor uses – bet she couldn’t care less how long she makes you wait. It’s notorious to have to wait for doctors who have overbooked their appointments.


  • “she accepted a written warning and wont do it again”!!!!!???? Seriously??

    My heart breaks for the poor little girl and her now grieving family.

    How high and mighty an attitude of herself the doctor must have feeling that she can pick and choose who and when she treats someone? Sure there is surgery open/close times but 8 minutes isn’t that long. I’m sure we’ve all waited longer than that for doctors when we have appointments!!

    Rest In Peace EllieMay


  • I hope this doctor suffers nightmares for the rest of her life.


  • Absolutely don’t understand why this Doctor got away with only a slap on the wrist !!


  • Disgusting behaviour from the Doctor – so much for being in a health care profession trained to help people who are sick and need medical help – suspended for 6 months with full pay! – really shows how selfish the top area’s of medical staff are! – I think she should have to give those 6th months of pay to the little girls family – which is not even enough compensation for what they have gone through :(


  • I cannot understand how she’s still practising.


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