Teenager left brain damaged at birth awarded £21.6m NHS payout

Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admitted girl's injuries could have been avoided if appropriate care had been provided
Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admitted girl's injuries could have been avoided if appropriate care had been provided - BEN STANSALL/AFP

A teenage girl left brain damaged at birth after her Caesarean was delayed and her mother’s concerns dismissed has been awarded £21.6 million compensation by an NHS Trust.

Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has admitted that her injuries could have been avoided if appropriate care had been provided at her birth.

The girl’s legal team, led by David Thomas, a birth trauma specialist, brought action against the trust, alleging that it had breached its duty of care by delaying an emergency C-section and causing irreversible damage that would impact her for the rest of her life.

The Trust has now admitted full liability, acknowledging that it should not have allowed a junior registrar to attempt ventouse delivery of the baby, where a vacuum cap is attached to the baby’s head, or subsequently start the emergency Caesarean section.

It added that a “more experienced senior doctor had been available at the time and should have taken the lead to deliver the baby in such an emergency situation”.

‘Every day is a challenge’

At a High Court hearing last week, Mrs Justice Heather Williams approved a £21.6 million compensation package comprising a lump sum of £6.2 million and RPI linked annual payments for the rest of the girl’s life, known as GHJ to protect her identity, making it one of the largest ever NHS settlements for negligence.

GHJ’s mother told The Telegraph said: “It has been a long journey for my family to reach this point and I still get upset when I reflect on events in the delivery room and the way in which my concerns were dismissed.

“Every day is a challenge, but this settlement means we can afford specialist care, therapies and meet my daughter’s accommodation needs for her future.”

The girl was born at West Middlesex University Hospital, in Isleworth, west London, following a difficult and traumatic labour during which doctors delayed performing a caesarean section, despite signs of fetal distress.

While GHJ was eventually delivered via emergency C-section, she was born unresponsive and not breathing.

Though initially declared dead, a faint pulse was detected after 28 minutes, and after resuscitation, she took her first breath.

An MRI scan at seven days old showed signs of an acute profound hypoxic ischaemic insult – a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation. A further scan at one year and three months confirmed a brain injury, resulting in long-term physical, mental and learning disabilities that impact her ability to live independently.

GHJ will require ongoing care and supervision for the rest of her life, as well as further therapy, treatment, and access to specialist accommodation and equipment.

Following her ordeal, GHJ’s mother instructed leading medical negligence experts at Switalskisto investigate the care she received and whether more could have been done to protect her baby from harm.

Helps reach maximum potential

In a letter handed to the mother at the start of the court hearing, Leslie Watts CBE, the chief executive of Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust offered her “sincerest apologies” for the harm caused, acknowledging that GHJ’s injuries “could have been avoided if appropriate care had been provided”.

The letter expressed hope that the financial settlement would provide access to the care and support needed to help GHJ “thrive and reach her maximum potential”.

GHJ’s mother added: “I am absolutely convinced that therapeutic cooling of my daughter’s brain at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital in the hours following her birth saved her from a worse fate and I would like to see specialised cooling facilities in all maternity hospitals.”

Speaking on behalf of GHJ’s family David Thomas, the legal director of Switalskis, said: “Everyone deserves to have a safe birthing experience, and whilst tragic outcomes can occur in emergency situations, a complete disregard for patient safety policies and procedures is unacceptable.

“In this case, my client has fought for many years to secure justice for her child who will face unimaginable challenges throughout her life because of wholly avoidable injuries caused by negligence.

“Whilst we are pleased to have secured a settlement that will provide her with the care and financial security needed, and which gives her family some sense of justice, it is also important to acknowledge the positive impact that the Trust’s unreserved apology has had.”

Mr Thomas added: “The full apology came unexpectedly at the start of the High Court hearing after many years of the family feeling unheard. It is the mothers hope that the NHS takes note of the emotional trauma that such delays can have after such a harrowing experience, and that improved candour and transparency is implemented as part of the wider review into maternity services to ensure that no one else suffers as she has.”