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Paul Sankey: GBP 85.8 Million in Damages After Maternity Care Failures

The news that negligent errors in reading CTGs (cardiotocograms) cost the NHS £85.8 million in 2010, a sevenfold increase since 2006 is deeply shocking. The increase in damages is probably down to 2 factors. The first is an increase in settlements – 36 last year as opposed to 26 in 2006. The second is better knowledge of quite what the costs are of providing care for severely brain-damaged people.CTGs monitor the baby’s heart rate during labour. They are difficult to read to the untrained eye but midwives and obstetricians should be capable to detecting the warning signs of a baby in distress. The danger is that babies can be deprived of oxygen leading to severe brain damage and cerebral palsy. Babies with severe cerebral palsy will need a lifetime of care. Awards of damages will aim to include the cost of care, adapted accommodation and equipment to manage the difficulties of living with disability.A host of voices from the professional bodies for midwives, obstetricians and gynaecologists and AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents) – and I should say that I am on AvMA’s panel of specialist clinical negligence solicitors – have highlighted the need to improve training to read CTGs properly. Unfortunately improved training in recent training, including regularly 6 monthly refreshers, does not seem to have improved clinical care. Yet this is an absolutely crucial issue. My colleagues and I are working on a number of claims for cerebral palsy victims following CTG and other errors in Maternity Units. All of us who work with the families of brain damaged children know just how devastating the impact of mistakes can be.One other worrying factor is that proposed changes to funding of clinical negligence claims are likely to remove legal aid from these most deserving of claimants, restricting their access of justice and preventing them from recovering awards to help meet the cost of their care. The Department of Health commented that patients injured as a result of clinical negligence were entitled to obtain damages but the Ministry of Justice seems determined to put obstacles in their way.Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.