Two baby brain injury incidents have resulted in landmark compensation awards totalling over £50m.
In one case, a six-year-old boy who suffered a catastrophic brain injury shortly after birth received more than £37m.
He had contracted the herpes simplex virus at Watford General Hospital, resulting in a brain fever.
This was not detected or acted upon soon enough, according to his barrister, Henry Witcomb QC. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust had previously apologised and agreed to settle his case. What followed was described by the boy’s solicitor as the “highest award ever” in a clinical negligence case against the NHS.
As the court heard, there was a two-day delay in administering an antiviral drug, leading to “catastrophic damage to his brain”. This left him with eyesight and communication problems, cognitive and movement difficulties as well as behavioural issues.
The boy will receive a lump sum pay-out, plus annual, index linked and tax free payments to cover the costs of the 24-hour care he will need for life.
The trust’s chief executive apologised to the boy’s family in a letter sent in May 2017. The trust’s barrister, John Whitting QC, said: “The care which he received was not of an appropriate standard and for that we are acutely sorry.”
He added lessons had been learned and steps had been taken to ensure “nothing similar will ever happen again”.
Another recent case saw the NHS agree to pay £19.8m in damages to an 18-year-old woman who suffered catastrophic brain injuries when she was deprived of oxygen as a baby.
The incident occurred at five months, when the individual was in hospital being treated for reflux. A half-an-hour period without being given oxygen ultimately resulted in severe disabilities.
The pay-out, valued at £19,774,265, reflects the severity of the injuries she sustained and the lifetime costs of her receiving care at home around the clock.
It will be paid by Cardiff and Vale University health board in Wales, which runs the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where the girl received poor care in early 2000.
The court heard how the woman stopped breathing and “turned blue” after hospital staff failed to give her oxygen.
A judge last month agreed that hospital staff had failed to properly ventilate the girl before and after she went into respiratory arrest on 1 February 2000.