Meningitis failures cause newborn baby to suffer severe brain damage - £4.6M

'Bobby', nine 

Nine-year-old Bobby suffered catastrophic brain damage when he was just six weeks old after an out-of-hours GP, a paramedic and a community GP failed to refer him to hospital when he developed symptoms of meningitis. Bobby’s permanent disabilities are severe but after his family was put in touch with the brain injury specialists at JMW he was awarded £4.6 million in compensation to cover the cost of the care he requires. 

Misdiagnosis by out-of-hours GP

When Bobby fell ill one evening his mother Marie was immediately concerned as had severe vomiting and diarrhoea unlike anything Bobby had experienced before. Bobby would not settle and seemed very poorly so at 11pm Marie called the out-of-hours GP service. 

The doctor was unconcerned and, unacceptably due to Bobby’s young age, did not arrange to see him in person or tell Marie to take him to the nearest medical centre. The doctor asked Marie about Bobby’s feeding and decided that a diagnosis of over-feeding would explain the sickness even though without a physical examination he could not rule out a serious illness. 

Paramedic takes no action

Over the next two hours Bobby deteriorated further and his parents were becoming increasingly concerned. Bobby would not settle at all, his breathing was fast and shallow and his skin was clammy: all signs that he was suffering from a severe infection which required hospital treatment. 

At 1.20am Marie called NHS Direct and the nurse she spoke to rang an ambulance when Marie reported that Bobby’s lips were blue and his skin was turning grey. However when the ambulance arrived, the paramedic, despite Bobby’s young age and his worrying symptoms, decided he had a virus and did not transfer him to hospital where he could be checked out by specialists. The paramedic told Bobby’s parents to give him Calpol and that he should recover over the next few days although they could take him to see his GP in the morning if they wished. 

Third attempt to get help

Bobby remained in a poor condition overnight and by the next morning his parents were beside themselves. They knew something was not right however they kept being fobbed off. They decided to try again with their own GP and as soon as the surgery opened they called for an appointment. 

The doctor saw Bobby at 10am and despite further worrying signs, including Bobby being drowsy and floppy she simply reiterated the paramedic’s advice.Later that evening Bobby’s eyes began moving in different directions and his parents took him back to the doctor who this time told them to take him to hospital but still had no sense of urgency.

At hospital Bobby was fitting and he was diagnosed with meningitis. Doctors tried very hard to treat him successfully with antibiotics but it was now too late to prevent permanent brain damage from being caused.  

Successful medical negligence case

As specialists in brain injury cases JMW conducted a thorough investigation into the care provided to Bobby and took legal action on his behalf. The two doctors and the ambulance service denied that the failure to refer Bobby to hospital had caused his brain damage however negotiations by JMW clinical negligence partner Olivia Scates led to them agreeing liability for 85 per cent of his injuries and for a £4.6 million care package to be secured. This will provide the highly specialist care that Bobby, who is not expected to live past his teens, requires to lead as comfortable a life as possible. 



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