BEING hooked up to a heart monitor could have saved the life of a four-year-old boy who died at Southampton General Hospital, an inquest heard today.

Matthew Kenway, of Belllfield, Fareham, suffered a heart attack as he recovered from a kidney operation in the early hours of December 16 2010.

Staff nurse Lyndsey Menendez told the Southampton inquest how she had been caring for Mathew alongside another nurse and that he had seemed well during the night.

After an alarm on Matthew's monitor went off, she went to check on him and said that he was breathing through a ventilator and she could see his chest rising and falling.

She told the inquest she had thought it must be a problem with the machine or that it had been dislodged so replaced it.

But when she massaged Matthew's feet she realised there was a problem with his circulation and then that she could not find a heart beat.  Ms Menendez said a heart monitor would have been ideal as she would have known what the problem was immediately.

John White, representing Matthew's family, said an NHS investigation into the death had found that there was a 20-minute delay between the alarm sounding and medical staff attempting to resuscitate the youngster.

But Ms Menendez said she believed it was five to ten minutes.

The inquest heard that using heart monitors in this way was not standard practice at the time. Ms Menendez said that since Matthew's death procedures had been changed so that all patients were linked to a heart monitor for the first 24 hours after surgery.

The inquest is due to last two days.