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Boy with catastrophic brain damage after meningitis failures wins £4.6M care package
A severely disabled Berkshire boy who was failed by three different medical professionals when he developed meningitis as a baby is to receive a £4.6 million care package.
The nine-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, suffered catastrophic brain damage after an out-of-hours GP, paramedic and community GP failed to recognise he needed urgent hospital treatment.
The previously healthy baby boy was almost seven weeks old when he became unwell with meningitis. Despite the best efforts of his parents, who sought medical help three times in a 12-hour period, he was not referred to hospital where he could have received treatment from paediatricians with antibiotics. He now has severe cerebral palsy, profound learning disabilities, deafness, severe visual impairment and epilepsy. He requires 24-hour specialist care and is not expected to live beyond his teens.
The High Court in London yesterday gave its seal of approval for compensation totalling £4.6 million to be paid to the boy so that he can be provided with the specialist care and accommodation he needs for the rest of his life.
A partner at JMW, who specialises in catastrophic brain injury cases and who represented the boy, commented: “This is an extremely tragic and distressing case as the lives of this boy and his family have been devastated by the poor care he received. Their instinct told them something wasn’t right and they repeatedly sought help from the medical professionals they thought knew best. Unfortunately they were let down in the worst possible way as guidelines were not followed and signs of a deteriorating baby were not acted on.
“The case itself was extremely complex and has required determination and tenacity from the boy’s mother to reach this stage. However she has never stopped fighting for him and I am delighted that the family will now have access to the help they need to provide for his extremely severe disabilities.”
The boy fell ill on 30 October 2007 when he was nearly seven weeks old. He was feeding poorly, was abnormally quiet and after an episode of severe vomiting and diarrhoea his mother called the out-of-hours GP service at 11pm. The out-of-hours GP she spoke to negligently failed to arrange to see the baby for an examination or advise his parents to take him to the on call centre where he could be properly assessed. He wrongly diagnosed ‘overfeeding’ as the cause of the baby’s illness and failed to take an adequate history from the mother which meant he failed to appreciate further investigation was needed.
The baby deteriorated and his breathing became fast and shallow, he would not settle and his skin was clammy and wax-like. Hs mother rang NHS Direct at 1.20am and spoke to a nurse who asked questions about his skin colour which was turning grey and his lips blue. The nurse rang an ambulance which arrived at 1.29am but the paramedic failed to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and take the boy to hospital for review by a paediatrician. He told the parents to give the baby Calpol and wrongly diagnosed a viral infection with advice to take him to GP in morning if they were still concerned.
The next morning they took him to the first GP appointment they could obtain at 10am and despite him being drowsy and floppy, making groaning noises and the previous worrying history, the GP failed to take any action. The only advice given was to give the baby Calpol and plenty of fluids and that his illness should pass in three to four days.
The boy’s parents remained worried but did not know what to do after being fobbed off three times. However, when the baby’s eyes began moving in different directions they took him back to see the same GP at around 6pm. The GP advised them to take him to hospital but still did not seem to think there was anything seriously wrong.
The boy was taken by his parents to the Royal Berkshire Hospital and shortly after being admitted began to fit and was critically ill. Tests revealed he had meningitis but despite treatment it was now too late to prevent permanent and devastating brain damage.
After initially denying the claim altogether, the NHS body responsible for the out-of-hours GP, admitted in 2014 that they had failed in their duty of care to the boy and in 2015 the community GP did as well. However the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, responsible for the paramedic, denied any wrong-doing throughout, and all three denied that their poor care caused the boy’s brain damage.
The boy’s legal team at JMW Solicitors continued his battle for justice and in March 2015 liability was settled on an 85% basis, when proceedings were concluded against the community GP, and continued against the first two defendants. Extensive investigations were then carried out to determine how much money would be needed to provide the level of care he requires, which was agreed in March 2017 and consists of a lump sum of £2.3 million and periodical payments for life of £237,660, rising to £259,257 in 2026.
For more information or to arrange an interview with solicitor Olivia Scates, please contact Kelly Hindle or Samantha Meakin on the details below. Please note the family will not be giving any interviews and an anonymity order has been made by the court preventing the publication of any information that could identify the child.
0161 828 1868
07921 388 584
0161 828 1981
07595 277 842
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.