The award of £7m in damages to a boy left brain damaged after negligent NHS care at birth highlights the importance both of the best care in labour and of proper provision for care when things go wrong.
Charlie Scott was left brain damaged with Cerebral Palsy, unable to walk, talk, sit up or drink without assistance after Medical Negligence errors at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital left him starved of oxygen during the birth. It is thought that there was a 20 minute delay before midwives realised that his umbilical cord was constricted by the position of his shoulders within the womb. Had they realised his mother would have undergone an emergency Caesarean section.
Charlie’s story is a familiar tale to lawyers who deal with Medical Negligence Claims. Whilst mistakes of this sort are not that common, where they happen the results can be catastrophic. Where it is possible to prove negligence – often by no means easy – the aim of a damages award is so far as possible to put a child like Charlie in the position he or she would have been in had the negligence not occurred. That means appropriate housing, equipment such as wheelchairs and a suitable vehicle, and paid carers to help him get up, dressed, washed, use the toilet, eat, go out and do all the things fully able-bodied people take for granted. Over a lifetime the awards can be substantial simply because the cost of care itself may be in the region of £200,000 per year or so.
The government is concerned at the cost of mistakes such as this to the health service. Its response has been to try to restrict access of Claimants to legal advice, make it harder for people to make claims and restrict the costs that can be incurred in proper investigating and pursuing claims. However ultimately someone has to bear the cost. If Charlie were not able to recover damages the cost would fall on his family, his local NHS hospital and the Local Authority, who would have to provide for his treatment and care in any event. A more constructive and just approach would be to focus on eliminating the mistakes in the first place.
Charlie Scott has to live with a profound disability which was wholly avoidable with proper care. His family have for the last 14 years borne an enormous cost. It is only right that his Clinical Negligence Compensation should help to make a catastrophic situation a little more bearable for them. For more information on Rehabilitation please click here.