GP breaks down as she addresses hearing

Tests established that Claire Taylor had been suffering from a form of Type 1 diabetes.
Tests established that Claire Taylor had been suffering from a form of Type 1 diabetes.

A GP who failed to diagnose Type 1 diabetes in a critically ill Kirriemuir teenager hours before she died broke down in tears at a tribunal hearing on Friday.

Dr Michelle Watts told the panel at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service that the mistake would live with her for the rest of her life.

Dr Watts, 47, had been summoned to treat schoolgirl Claire Taylor, 17, at her family home but allegedly “laughed off” concerns from the Claire’s mother that she needed hospital treatment.

She also failed to properly examine Claire when she attended surgery at Kirriemuir Health Centre, the previous day and then again at the Taylory family home after the teenager began feeling violently unwell.

Claire was said to have lost weight, had a blue pallor, sunken cheeks and was struggling to eat or drink but Dr Watts left the house suggesting she take a course of sleeping tablets.

She died from diabetic ketoacidosis a few hours later with her mother by her side on November 7, 2012.

It was subsequently discovered she had been suffering from Type 1 diabetes, and Claire’s mother Helen, 55, had earlier informed Dr Watts that her family had a history of the condition.

Giving evidence at the tribunal in Manchester, Dr Watts acknowledged her mistake had “catastrophic consequences”.

She added that she felt that if she could miss such a diagnosis then somebody else could but that she can do make sure it does not happen to another family or another clinician.

Dr Watts said she had considered diabetes but the condition was ‘at the back of her mind’, and it is alleged she instead associated Claire’s poor health with “panic breathing”.

Claire had been taken to see four doctors before her first consultation with Dr Watts, when she lost 10lb in 10 days.

At the end of their meeting on November 6, 2012 Dr Watts attempted to test Claire for diabetes using the finger prick method, but she refused.

She arranged for Claire to have a blood test later in the week, but she died before it could be performed.

Dr Watts also said that she “had some pieces of the jigsaw” but was connecting them in incorrectly.

Describing her distress on learning of Claire’s death, she said: “As more information came in over those days and I began to reflect and understand what had happened, and when the post-mortem results came through and it all fitted together I was absolutely devastated.

“I couldn’t understand why a clinician who had been working for more than 20 years, who had never had anything like this happen to her, who was a diabetes specialist in the practice, who looked after thousands of patients over the years managing different rare illnesses... How on Earth I could have missed this? That is what I thought.”

Dr Watts, who is also associate medical director of primary care services at NHS Tayside, denies writing misleading notes following Claire’s death to “minimise the scope” for any criticism.

She said she recorded that Claire was not complaining of abdominal pain when she visited her at home because she had not specifically mentioned it to her.

Strenuously denying her note-making was dishonest, she added: “I am extremely open and honest and we all make mistakes. I make mistakes probably as much as everybody else.

“In my clinical career I have been incredibly fortunate to have never had anything like this happen to me. I can count the number of complaints in my 25 years practice on the fingers of one hand, in fact, I struggle to think of a time I have had a previous complaint.”

The hearing continues.