A NURSERY worker died after developing acute autoimmune hepatitis and Covid-19 while waiting for a liver transplant, an inquest heard.

Katie Horne died in April 2020 after she first visited the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath with jaundice, dark urine, tiredness and cramps.

The 21-year-old was later transferred to King’s College Hospital in London with the aim of having a liver transplant, but tested positive for Covid-19, preventing her from receiving a transplant due to the medical guidance in place at the time.

Senior Coroner Andrew Harris, who drew a short-form conclusion of natural causes, said the combination of liver failure, the impact of the pandemic on hospitals and Katie contracting Covid-19 led to her death.

He said there was “no evidence” that either hospital had provided inappropriate care, but raised concerns about the delay in receiving results and involving a gastroenterologist in her care.

The Argus: Katie Horne Katie Horne

During an inquest at Inner London South Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, the court heard that Katie, who had a history of autoimmune illnesses in her family, faced a delay in receiving her blood test results determining what type of hepatitis she had due to a “backlog” at the lab as a result of the pandemic.

Consultant Tatyana Viner, who saw Katie two days after she first presented at hospital with symptoms on March 1, told the inquest there were no gastroenterologists available on site when she first visited the hospital.

Questioned if Ms Viner chased the lab results when Katie saw her on March 3, she said she presumed a junior doctor would have done so.

Asked why she didn’t, she replied: “I was busy.”

Katie returned to hospital a further two times before receiving her results, and then met with gastroenterologist Dr Nick Parnell on March 16 - 15 days after she first went to hospital.

Questioned by the coroner as to why the gastroenterologist was not approached after he said there would’ve been one on site, Dr Parnell said: “I do not know why their advice was not sought.”

He described Katie’s condition as “rare” and “aggressive”.

On March 18, Katie was admitted to the Princess Royal as an inpatient and began receiving steroid treatment on March 20.

The inquest heard that if Dr Parnell was involved earlier, she could have started being treated 10 days earlier than she did.

Katie was transferred to King’s College Hospital on March 24 and was placed under the care of Dr Varuna Aluvihare.

But she tested positive for Covid-19 four days later – which was contracted prior to her admission – meaning she was no longer eligible for a transplant.

Katie was then moved to intensive care on April 5 after “deteriorating quickly” and died on April 11.

The Argus: Katie Horne and her family Katie Horne and her family

Both Dr Parnell and Dr Aluvihare agreed that if she had received treatment sooner, it would have had a “better outcome”, but they were unable to say if she would have survived.

Mr Harris said he would provide a prevention of future deaths report as the Princess Royal had not undertaken an internal investigation following Katie's death.

He told the inquest: “The trust has not made any attempt to find any evidence over the last two years [as to why there was a delay with the results and her meeting a gastroenterologist]. This is not very reassuring for the family.

“None of us could move into the shoes of the family and think what it is like to lose a child at the beginning of her life. It is unthinkable.

“Nothing will be able to mend their lives from this devastating loss.”

Katie attended the Downlands Community School in Hassocks and then the Central Sussex College in Crawley.