The High Court has approved a medical negligence claim today, Friday 15th November, for a seven- year-old child from South Wales who suffered a significant avoidable brain injury at birth which has led to cerebral palsy and other permanent disabilities.
The incident took place in 2012 at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital run by the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board which had its maternity services placed in special measures in April this year.
The settlement follows an admission of liability by the health board and will cover the extensive costs of specialist therapies, equipment and lifelong care for the child who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
Representing the family, birth injuries specialist lawyer Diane Rostron said: “Our client suffered a very serious, and entirely preventable, brain injury during their birth at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. On investigating this claim, we found that the hospital’s failings had started after our client’s mother had her first child. Medical staff made a critical error by recording the wrong type of caesarean section incision. Had this essential piece of information been accurately recorded, the hospital should have known that there was a high risk of a uterine rupture in a second pregnancy prompting an early medical intervention in the lead up to our client’s birth.
“Our client’s mother was admitted to the Royal Glamorgan Hospital suffering significant abdominal pain which should have raised alarms prompting urgent review by a consultant however, she had to wait for more than an hour before being seen by a junior doctor.
“Our client’s mother was in fact suffering with an impending uterus rupture which should have led to an urgent caesarean being performed within a very short time of admission. Instead, our client’s mother continued to suffer excruciating pain with no less than a further three reviews taking place roughly on an hourly basis by junior doctors.
“During this period, CTG scans showed that the baby’s heart rate was slowing. At this point, we have a mother with extreme abdominal pain, but not in labour, who had previously had a c-section, and a baby in obvious distress. The correct action should have been to call for an obstetric consultant to review the situation leading to an emergency caesarean.
“The hospital continued to fail in its duties and more than seven hours after being admitted with red flag symptoms, the plan remained to simply observe mother and baby. An emergency c-section was finally performed eight hours post admission some seven hours after urgent medical intervention should have taken place which would have resulted in a perfectly healthy baby and relatively minimal injuries to mum.”
During the significant delays, and the failure of senior medical staff to attend what should have been recognised as an emergency, the baby suffered 27 minutes of significantly slowed heart rate before their birth. As a result, they have been diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy which mainly affects the muscles in their legs, developmental delay, learning disabilities, behavioural and sensory issues and is at risk of developing epilepsy.
The mother, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, commented: “It has been a long seven-year battle for my family to reach this point. The Royal Glamorgan Hospital carried out its own internal Serious Case Review into what happened and all we got was a scrap piece of paper concluding that no lessons needed to be learned. No lessons needed to be learned.
“We simply could not believe that its senior medical staff, tasked with reviewing incidents involving serious, lifelong and preventable injuries, failed to identify error, after error, after error. When you have a child with cerebral palsy, the entire family is significantly impacted. The plans and lifestyle we had, and should have had, have simply gone. We cannot do the things that other families take for granted with ease like going on bike rides or going to the beach. Every day is a challenge.
“Reaching a settlement will mean that we can now afford to give our child the specialist care, equipment and therapies that they will need for the rest of their life. My child will never be able to work, that’s been taken away. My child might never be able to live independently, that’s been taken away.
“The hospital’s maternity services are now rightly under special measures but many of the same staff who were involved in my child’s birth, and those who concluded that no lessons needed to be learned after my child was born severely disabled, remain in post.”
Diane Rostron continued: “This has been a particularly difficult investigation as the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board failed to be transparent in providing adequate notes and information about the incident. It also failed during its own internal investigation into what happened, incredibly finding that no failings had taken place.
“It is very concerning that a hospital which failed to recognise this emergency situation, failed to recognise that a senior consultant was required on admission, missed multiple opportunities to recognise that the mother had suffered a significant rupture placing her and the baby in a life threatening situation, performed an emergency c-section more than seven hours late, could conclude that no lessons needed to be learned.
“Our client’s family pursued a complaint direct with the health board but they failed to uphold this. We are pleased that the health board finally admitted liability following five years of litigation and just two weeks before a trial was due to start in the High Court.”
If you believe that your family has suffered a significant birth injury as a result of medical negligence, please don’t hesitate to contact our team of experts for a free initial consultation here.