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Woman brain damaged by 999 delays wins compensation

Woman brain damaged by 999 delays wins compensation

Caren Paterson, a 36-year-old scientist who was left brain-damaged after waiting more than an hour and forty minutes for an ambulance, has been awarded a compensation package worth £5m.

In 2007, Ms Paterson collapsed at her home in Islington, north London. Her boyfriend instantly called emergency services for an ambulance, reporting that she was unconscious, breathing abnormally and her lips had turned blue.

However, the address was inexplicably red-flagged as high risk and the crew waited just 100m away waiting for a police escort. There were no officers available at the time and, despite two more 999 calls, the emergency medical team waited.

By the time paramedics did reach Ms Paterson her brain had been starved of oxygen, causing permanent damage; she also suffered a cardiac arrest just five minutes before their arrival. The cardiac arrest left Ms Paterson with chronic amnesia, confusion and disorientation with the result she will never work again and requires 24-hour care for the rest of her life.

London Ambulance Service accepts responsibility

The London Ambulance Service NHS Trust offered "sincere apologies" to Ms Paterson, who worked as a genetic scientist at King’s College London, for its shortcomings and will pay her a £1.4m lump sum plus lifelong long annual payments.

Reflecting on the tragic events, Ms Paterson’s mother, Caren, comments: "My daughter was a successful and ambitious scientist but it is so distressing that all of her aspirations and ambitions have been taken away from her because of her brain injury. The thought of an ambulance crew sitting waiting round the corner while my daughter lay in her flat as her condition went from serious to life-threatening, causing irreparable damage to her brain, is still shocking and I hope no-one ever has to go through what we have. I was determined to ensure Caren had access to the best possible care and support for the rest of her life and it is such a huge relief that the settlement has been approved”.

Phillip Havers QC apologised on behalf of the ambulance trust, saying: “The trust hopes and believes that the sums to be paid out under this order will provide some recompense to the claimant’s mother for the devoted care and support she has provided, and will go a long way to providing for the claimant’s needs in the future.”

Official data released last year show that there were more than 200 households in London that were designated by the London Ambulance Service as requiring a police assistance to enter due to concerns over potential risks to staff. Properties in which staff have been verbally or physically abused, or threatened with violence are typically included on the list.

It is now thought that there are around 600 addresses on the register. However, the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust has reformed its policy to ensure that an ambulance crew assesses each situation themselves when they get to the scene and will “only ever delay treatment if they believe they are in danger.”

Types of brain injuries and seeking redress

Brain injury, unlike physical injury, is not always easy to see, so the impact of such an injury is not necessarily appreciated by others. In some cases the injury is quite minor, with the effects lasting a few days, leaving the individual with a range of nuisance symptoms, such as headaches, tiredness, memory loss or poor concentration.

In other cases, the injury can be seen to be very serious from the outset, highlighted by loss of consciousness and a long period of inpatient care. In these cases, the victim may not make a full recovery, but be left with permanent deficits, affecting their entire life. Not only do they suffer such injury that they cannot work, but their domestic lives undergo change. Personality change is common in severe brain injuries, which can lead to behavioural difficulties and breakdown of relationships.

As the tragic case of Ms Paterson shows, clinical negligence cases can be extremely complex, and anyone seeking advice about head or brain injuries should speak to an accredited brain specialist lawyer.

If you want to enquire about making a head or brain injury claim, please contact a member of our team 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 our accredited brain injury specialist malcom.underhill@ibblaw.co.uk