A mother watched in “absolute horror” as her son died hours after doctors failed to spot he had sepsis and sent him home from hospital, an inquest has heard.

Tim Mason had flu-like symptoms and told doctors he “felt like he was dying” but was discharged just after 8am on March 16 without further treatment.

The 21-year-old was rushed back into Tunbridge Wells Hospital’s accident and emergency department hours later for the second time that day and died hours later, the hearing in Maidstone was told.

Staff missed “several” chances to test him for sepsis during the “extremely busy” day despite him displaying signs of the deadly infection, the inquest was told.

The diagnosis was delayed by more than six hours and he would not have died if properly treated, the hearing heard.

The Sussex Downs College student, who was training as an electrical engineer, had also developed the rare but life-threatening W strain of meningitis.

He died after his organs began to fail and he had a cardiac arrest while in an induced coma.

Fiona Mason, a personal assistant to the next lord mayor of London Peter Estlin, wept as she told the inquest they first took their son to hospital in the early hours of the morning after he began vomiting “more violently than we have ever seen”.

She said: “It was a mother’s instinct that this was not normal.”

He was treated for an “uncontrollably high” temperature but this did not desist.

“He was frightened and expressed this to both me and his doctor. He said he felt like he was dying,” Mrs Mason said.

She told how doctors said he had a virus and the symptoms would get worse before they got better and he could be discharged.

He was handed a referral letter so he would be seen immediately if he felt worse but when he came back to the emergency department seven hours later – in so much pain he could not walk or sit up – he was made to wait to be seen, the hearing was told.

Mrs Mason “begged” receptionists to let her son see a doctor but was still told to wait so she went to find a nurse herself, the inquest heard.

When he was assessed again by other doctors they found it “evident” he had septic shock and organ failure, describing him as “extremely ill”.

Tim Mason
Tim on his first day of secondary school (PA)

As her son lay in a critical condition, Mrs Mason said: “We were holding and stroking his hand and spoke to him, encouraging him to fight. Then to our absolute horror, his heart stopped.”

The family were “truly grateful” for being allowed to stay in the room in his final moments while staff tried to resuscitate him.

Mrs Mason added: “We were watching and shouting at him to fight for his life.”

His father, a furniture restoration specialist, cried as he sat with brothers Alex, 27, and Nick, 23, and listened to her evidence.

Junior doctor Max Bacon, who had been qualified for just over a year, said he discharged Mr Mason after seeking guidance from a senior colleague and being “falsely reassured” by blood test results.

He had considered sepsis but a screening was not ordered, the inquest heard.

Giving evidence, Dr Bacon said: “I wish I had put him through the sepsis protocol.

“I see from hindsight he should have had it.

“I was more unsure more than anything as to just how unwell he was.”

Jessica Elliott, representing the family, raised concerns over flaws in paperwork and difficulties doctors had in establishing whether Mr Mason had ever been vaccinated for meningitis or invited by the health service to do so.

Tim Mason
The 21-year-old had told doctors he felt like he was dying (PA)

She questioned why staff had treated him as a fresh walk-in patient when he had a referral.

The family were told about an apparent “four-hour” target the hospital had to deal with patients but Dr Bacon insisted this did not factor in the decision to discharge him.

The death prompted him to “heavily” research sepsis, speak to senior staff and complete extra training courses because he “didn’t want anything like this to happen again”.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust has accepted liability and admitted breaching a duty of care by discharging Mr Mason with such symptoms, the inquest heard.

The trust’s barrister David Reddington said he should have been seen by a senior doctor before discharge and would still be alive if “appropriately treated”.

The hearing continues on Thursday.