Jenny Urwin settled a medical negligence claim for £14.7m for a young boy who suffered brain injury due to negligent treatment at his birth at Wythenshawe Hospital South Manchester, part of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. He has extremely severe cerebral palsy and significantly reduced life expectancy as a result.
His mother's pregnancy progressed well, but ultimately she had to be induced because the pregnancy went beyond term.
After some 16 hours of labour following induction, the CTG trace monitoring the baby's heart rate started to show abnormalities, followed by a bradycardia (sudden reduction in the fetal heart rate). Despite this, midwives failed to properly communicate the position to the consultant obstetrician. Instead of arranging for the baby to be born by instrumental delivery straight away, the mother was left to continue to push and deliver her son, and no steps were taken to arrange for the paediatricians to be on hand.
When the baby was born, he was not breathing and the paediatric registrar did not arrive until a further six minutes later to intubate him. To compound these errors, he was also not sent for cooling – a recognised treatment to lower a baby's body temperature that can reduce the effect of hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, or brain damage, suffered after a traumatic event.
Expert evidence criticised the management of the labour, delivery, the failure to call for neonatal support and to refer him for cooling. He should have been delivered 10 minutes earlier than he was and this would have entirely avoided the event that caused his brain damage. The failure to undertake cooling also materially contributed to his injury.
Due to the medical negligence, he now has limited head control and cannot roll, sit, stand or walk. He is unable to blink or swallow and has little communication. He is fed with a gastrostomy and is incontinent. He is entirely dependent on his parents or nurses for care, requires regular suctioning both day and night and has an intense regime of medication and therapies 24 hours a day. His sleep pattern is disturbed and he requires repositioning at least every two hours.
Following service of a pre-action clinical negligence letter of claim, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust provided a full admission of liability. Interim payments were secured to introduce much needed nursing care and case management, therapies (physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy) and the purchase of equipment, while steps were taken to obtain the necessary expert evidence to value the claim. Eye Gaze communication equipment was successfully introduced to enable him to better engage with his environment.
A settlement meeting took place but initial offers made by the defendants were insufficient. A successful settlement was achieved shortly afterwards with extremely high periodical payments for care and case management for life, index linked to the appropriate earnings index, to account for his need for nursing care. Periodical payments for lost earnings were also agreed together with a lump sum, which will fund the purchase and adaptation of a suitable property, aids and equipment and ongoing therapies.
The medical negligence settlement overall equates to a lump sum equivalent of £14.7m taking into account the claimant's reduced life expectancy.
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