Worcester family and lawyers say NHS decision over brain damage screening puts babies at risk 


Families and lawyers have said they are dismayed that Public Health England’s decision not to screen babies at risk of a catastrophic and preventable type of brain damage and that lives will be put at risk. 

In a statement released online on 3 August, Public Health England said the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) had found there was insufficient evidence for a national screening programme for kernicterus.  

Michael Kalisperas’s son Vasili was at high risk of kernicterus after developing jaundice within 24-hours of his birth. He went on to develop kernicterus that left him with severe cerebral palsy, blind and deaf after midwives failed to refer him for treatment. Michael is now petitioning Prime Minister Theresa May to reverse the decision by Public Health England. 

Michael, of Worcestershire, commented: “I am devastated by this decision, how many more children and families have to have their lives devastated before the NHS takes preventing kernicterus seriously? Screening could have saved my son and many others yet they have been left severely disabled for the rest of their lives. 

“As parents you trust that the healthcare professionals who see your baby know what they are doing. For us that trust was betrayed in one of the worst possible ways as the advice we were given was completely wrong and basic mistakes were made. A screening programme could help to prevent the mistakes that continue to be made”

Eddie Jones, head of medical negligence at JMW who is handling four-year-old Vasili’s medical negligence case against Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, commented: “Vasili’s case is far from an isolated example and we continue to see the same mistakes being made in different parts of the country. There does not appear to be any kind of joined up approach by the NHS to ensure NICE guidelines are followed everywhere and this is what screening could have achieved. 

“The cost to these families and the NHS in compensation payments so they can cope with the severe disabilities is huge. This decision is a huge blow and lives could be put at risk as a result.” 

Kernicterus is caused by high levels of a substance called bilirubin which causes jaundice but is treatable with phototherapy or a blood transfusion. The key is to test the baby and refer for treatment when bilirubin reaches a certain threshold but midwives do not always realise how serious jaundice can be for babies. It can affect any baby but some are at greater risk and screening them would allow more careful monitoring by community midwives and hospitals. 

To sign the Kalisperas family’s petition to reverse the decision about kernicterus screening go to https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-reversal-of-decision-kernicterus-affects-normal-children-its-wholly-preventable. 


For more information:

Kelly Hindle

D. 0161 828 1868

E. Kelly.hindle@jmw.co.uk 

Note to Editors

JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading clinical negligence lawyer, Eddie Jones. For more than a decade he and his team have advised and represented thousands of victims of clinical negligence, and their relatives, and have obtained over £100 million in compensation for their clients, as well as providing the answers as to why their medical treatment has gone wrong.



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