Warning after girl, 17, dies from reaction to NHS drug as coroner warns 'more will die'

19 April 2023, 12:03

Alexandra Briess, 17, died after suffering a fatal reaction to an anaesthetic
Alexandra Briess, 17, died after suffering a fatal reaction to an anaesthetic. Picture: Handout
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A coroner has issued an urgent warning to the NHS after a teenage girl died from an allergic reaction to a commonly-used drug.

Alexandra Briess, 17, was given rocuronium, a commonly-used anaesthetic, during an operation to remove her tonsils in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading on May 30, 2021.

During the operation, Alexandra suffered a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which led to "sudden deterioration and cardiac arrest". She died the next day.

Senior coroner for Berkshire Heidi Connor is now calling on the government and the NHS to create a new role within the health service to focus on understanding allergies in the UK.

Alexandra Briess
Alexandra Briess. Picture: Handout

In her report, Ms Connor said the NHS needs someone in charge of overseeing and coordinating funding and research on allergies on a national level.

If not, Ms Connor warns, "more people are at risk of death".

"The only way to improve understanding and prevent or reduce future deaths is to gather information nationally and fund appropriate research," Ms Connor adds.

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"Appropriate organisations already exist, and there is a lot of goodwill towards improving understanding in this area. It does however require national leadership and 'joining up' of these organisations.

"There is significant goodwill and desire to improve amongst numerous organisations involved in anaphylaxis work.

"What is lacking is national leadership and funding. In my view, consideration should be given to creating a leadership role and responsibility within NHS England to coordinate a national approach."

Some £9000 has been raised in her name
Some £9000 has been raised in her name. Picture: Handout

Since Alexandra's death, almost £9000 has been raised in her name.

The money has been donated to the Me2 club, where Alexandra was a volunteer helping young people with disabilities.

Tributes continue to pour in on her website nearly two years after her death, with one recent comment wishing Alexandra happy birthday.

Another person wrote: "Thought about you a lot today, missing the time we spent together."

In her report, Ms Connor referenced three more Brits who had died from allergic reactions.

That includes Celia Marsh, 42, who died after eating a 'vegan' wrap with milk in from Pret A Manger.

It also includes 18-year-old Shante Turay-Thomas who ate hazelnut and 14-year-old Ruben Bousquet who ate milk-contaminated popcorn.

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

Alexandra was described as "bright and well-loved"
Alexandra was described as "bright and well-loved". Picture: Handout

Symptoms include:

  • feeling lightheaded or faint
  • breathing difficulties – such as fast, shallow breathing
  • wheezing
  • a fast heartbeat
  • clammy skin
  • confusion and anxiety
  • collapsing or losing consciousness

There may also be other allergy symptoms, including an itchy, raised rash (hives); feeling or being sick; swelling (angioedema) or stomach pain, according to the NHS.

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