A five-year-old British girl died of an asthma attack hours later when a doctor turned her away for being a few minutes late for an emergency appointment.

Ellie-May Clark, who lived in Newport, had been sent home from school because her condition was worsening.

She was scheduled to see Dr Joanne Rowe at 5pm on 26 January 2015 at the Grange Clinic, after suffering an asthma attack. She had several serious asthma attacks in the past six months and had also been given prior treatment at the hospital.

Several minutes late to the appointment

According to the child's mother, Shanice Clark, they were just four minutes late for the appointment while an official report stated they were eight minutes late. She insisted this was incorrect as she checked the time on her mobile phone when she arrived.

The receptionist was busy when they arrived, thus it took some time before the receptionist called Rowe to ask if she would see Ellie-May. Rowe said the patient was late for more than 10 minutes and refused to see them.

According to the receptionist’s, the GP told her, “No I’m not seeing her, she’s late”.

They were told to return in the morning but Ellie-May had a fatal asthma attack later that night. She was rushed to Royal Gwent Hospital but soon passed away. The tragedy would not have happened if the treatment were not delayed.

Doctor refusing to see her the “root cause”

A leaked NHS report concluded that the “root cause” of the girl’s death was Dr Rowe’s refusal to see her. It said the doctor turned Ellie-May away without asking a single question about the girl's condition.

Rowe told health officials she was seeing another patient at the time, but examination of her schedule showed that this was not the case. Just months earlier, a paediatrician had written to Rowe warning that Ellie-May was "at risk of another life-threatening asthma attack".

The doctors’ watchdog, the General Medical Council (GMC) also found Dr Rowe’s temperament to be a factor in the conduct of the clinic’s staff. The report said, "There is a consensus that Dr Rowe is unapproachable and volatile. Many staff reported being afraid to challenge her decisions or seek a second opinion from one of the other doctors.”

Got away with a written warning

Despite the tragic incident, it was reported that the doctor is still practising medicine in South Wales after being given a warning following a secret disciplinary hearing by the GMC. She was suspended for six months on full pay after Ellie-May's death and her written warning will expire in five years.

A group of campaigners said the current system puts patients at risk. Donald Irvine, a former president of the GMC, warned that the watchdog needed "urgent reform".

He said, "The GMC is there to protect the public, not for the convenience of doctors." While the GMC's closed inquiry was ongoing, Rowe secured a job in another surgery in nearby Cardiff, where she works today.

Ellie-May's grandmother, Brandi Clark, 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." MIMS

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