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Negligent hospital staff failed to monitor baby’s blood sugar level: Seven-figure compensation payout expected

Negligent hospital staff failed to monitor baby’s blood sugar level: Seven-figure compensation payout expected

A teenager has won the right to a multi-million pound payout after it was discovered that negligence by NHS staff caused him to suffer brain damage and autism. The parents of Ben Harman only discovered the act of negligence when they applied for a blue parking badge permit in 2006, when their son was four years old.

“Catastrophically low” blood sugar levels

During his birth in 2002, medics failed to notice that Ben Harman from Marlow, Buckinghamshire, had “catastrophically low” blood sugar levels. Blood sugar – or glucose – is essential for newborns as it is the main source of fuel for the brain. Too little glucose – a condition called hypoglycemia – can impair the brain’s ability to function and a severe, or prolonged, period with insufficient glucose can result in seizures or shocks.

In newborns, hypoglycemia manifests itself in cyanosis – a blue colouring of the skin; apnoea – where the baby stops breathing; poor body tone; poor feeding; or hypothermia. However, low blood sugar can be diagnosed by a simple blood test and generally, any baby with low blood glucose levels will require urgent treatment.

Ben’s parents were unaware of any such complication during his birth at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, or in the period shortly thereafter. They were concerned when their son failed to hit milestones but when he was diagnosed as autistic, they attributed his disabilities to one of life’s cruelties. Ben’s mum Joanne Harman has stated that she had no suspicions that her son may have been a victim of medical negligence, and she worked hard to make his life as comfortable and fulfilling as possible.

However, in 2006, Ben’s parents applied for a blue parking badge where the circumstances of his birth were “revealed accidentally”. The couple sought medical evidence in support of their application and the extent of Ben’s hypoglycemia was exposed. The medical records showed that the now 13-year-old boy was given dextrose to treat his condition on birth, but it was delivered too late to save him from devastating brain damage and autism.

NHS Trust admitted liability for negligence following child birth

Upon the discovery of the concerning medical records, the family commenced legal action against the East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, that is responsible for the hospital in which Ben was born, and which has now admitted liability.

The High Court Judge hearing the case stated:

“When [Ben] was discharged, his parents were told nothing about the risk that his low blood sugar levels may have caused lasting damage”.

The Court heard how Ben’s brain damage and autism is so severe that despite his teenage years, he possesses the oral communication skills of a six-month-old baby. His thinking skills are seriously impaired and he possesses little social awareness and struggles to meaningfully relate to others. The Judge described Ben as prone to having “unpredictable tantrums”, with him liable to “lash out physically while shrieking at the top of his voice” when he feels distressed.

As he increases in age, Ben’s parents have explained how the risk of injury he poses to himself and others continues to grow more significant, with his care becoming more and more challenging. Prior to the admission of liability, the family fought tirelessly for funding to allow Ben to attend Prior’s Court – a boarding school in Hermitage, Berkshire, where he now resides.

By the time Ben was admitted to the school, the Judge described his parents as being “at the end of their tether, exhausted by the physical and emotional challenges of looking after him”. Ben is now “thriving” at Prior’s Court, returning home to his family at school holidays and every other weekend. His parents currently rent a large house close to the school to allow for as much contact as possible, and the Judge noted how Ben has only recently “started to hug his mother”.

The compensation figure is yet to be agreed, but is expected to be a seven-figure sum. The Judge rejected the NHS Trust’s arguments that Ben would be better off spending his life in institutional care, and the award will now cover his fees at the specialist school. Money will be awarded to fund his care regime when he is at home with his parents, including any adapted or specialist equipment considered necessary, and when Ben leaves the school aged 25, his future care costs will also be provide for.

Malcolm Underhill, Partner at IBB Solicitors commented, “This High Court decision is also very significant on the subject of payment of fees to Prior’s Court. The hospital argued that as the local authority were already paying the fees of Prior’s Court, the hospital should not have to pay them. However, the parents made it clear that they did not want to rely on local authority funding, which they had fought hard to obtain. Instead, they wanted the hospital (and their insurers) to pay, so they could be confident that there would always be sufficient monies to meet Ben’s needs. They were entitled to make that choice and the court would take account of their wishes.”

How to claim compensation for hospital negligence

from IBB Solicitors

You are entitled to expect a certain standard of treatment from those providing medical assistance to you. If this treatment falls below standard you may be entitled to recover the cost of the private medical treatment needed to correct the failings on the part of those originally treating you. Our goal at IBB Solicitors is to obtain justice for victims of the negligence by others, by securing compensation that reflects their pain and suffering, as well as related financial losses including loss of earnings, treatment costs and specialist care costs.

If you want to enquire about making a hospital, dentist or GP negligence claim, please contact one of our medical negligence solicitors on 01895 207835 or 01895 207295.

Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the accident/clinical negligence and the injuries sustained to malcolm.underhill@ibblaw.co.uk and one of our team will be able to help you.