Boy left severely brain damaged after failure to treat mum’s blood condition
PUBLISHED: 15:38 04 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:04 04 March 2020
A child left severely brain damaged following a failure to treat his mother’s blood condition during pregnancy has received a multi-million pound settlement.
The boy's mum, cared for at the West Suffolk Hospital, was diagnosed with Rhesus disease - a condition where antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood destroy her baby's blood cells.
During her pregnancy, medical staff failed to monitor and treat her condition - and did not deliver her earlier by caesarean section.
Following his birth at the Bury St Edmunds based hospital in 2010, the boy developed haemolytic disease, a problem with red blood cells.
Because of this, he developed medical complications including cardiac failure and problems with blood circulation, which caused a clotting disorder and haemorrhage. He suffered liver and brain damage at birth.
Today, a multi-million pound settlement - which will pay for a lifetime of care needed for the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons - was approved by the High Court.
'Mistakes caused heartbreak and pain'
Now his parents have revealed the toll the incident has had on their family.
The boy's father said: "We love our son so much and he is the most adorable boy we could wish for. However, it is difficult not to think how his life may have been different if he had not suffered his brain injury.
"All we want to do is to be able to provide the best possible life for him and we are so proud of the courage he shows every day.
"By speaking out we just hope that health bodies realise the heartbreak and pain they can cause through mistakes which could have been easily avoidable.
"We are relieved that this agreement has been reached and we can now try and concentrate on our boy receiving the support he deserves."
Both the West Suffolk and NHS Blood and Transplant admitted liability for his injuries in 2011.
However, the legal case was put on hold for several years as he was too young for the full extent of his injuries to be determined.
Leena Savjani, the expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing the family, said after the hearing: "This case is yet another terrible example of the issues which can emerge when problems develop during maternity care of mums and babies.
"The last few years and trying to come to terms with what happened have been incredibly difficult for the family. Like in many cases where a person suffers a brain injury as a child, our client has had to wait many years for doctors to fully establish the true extent of his injuries and how they will affect him.
She added: "We are glad that we have been able to work with the NHS trusts involved to bring this case to a conclusion, however, it is important both trusts learn lessons from this case to improve patient safety."
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At 28 weeks, a sample of the mother's blood was taken during an antenatal appointment and sent to the lab at West Suffolk for testing.
Rhesus disease was detected and so the sample was sent to the NHS Blood and Transplant Service, which placed an alert recommending the mother's antibodies be monitored on its patient system, and put onto the mum's notes.
However, the report was not sent to her GP or the hospital's antenatal department, and the trust's laboratory did not inform the antenatal clinic about the positive Rhesus disease result.
Mum 'sent home' despite reduced fetal movement
The mother attended four further antenatal appointments, but no action was taken regarding her antibody levels.
Towards the end of her pregnancy, the mother attended West Suffolk concerned about reduced fetal movement - but was sent home.
She returned four days later, and her son was delivered in a poor condition by caesarean section.
After birth, the NHS Blood and Transplant report was found in the mother's notes.
Both NHS Blood and Transplant and West Suffolk Hospital carried out internal investigations into the care the child and mother received and identified a number of failings.
Their lawyers subsequently admitted that 'but for' the failings identified in their internal investigations the child would have been born several weeks earlier with acceptable blood levels and would not have suffered a brain injury.
Hospital 'unreservedly apologises' to family
A hospital spokesman said: "We give our unreserved apologies to the patient and their family for the mistakes made while in our care in 2010, which we deeply regret.
"We do not underestimate the impact that this incident has had, and will continue to have, on them as a family.
"While we know it cannot fix what has happened, we are glad that the High Court has approved the settlement of this claim, which we hope will ensure that the individual's future needs are provided for and that they receive the care and support needed.
They added: "This very sad case occurred many years ago, and we would like to assure the family that we learned from it, made improvements and changed our processes to ensure mistakes were not repeated.
"Around 2,000 babies are born every year at our hospital.
"Our maternity services have faced challenges, as highlighted in our recent Care Quality Commission report, but we have addressed immediate safety concerns and families can be reassured that we deliver high-quality, safe and attentive care."
A spokesman for NHS Blood and Transplant said it has accepted liability for its part in the management of the child's mother's antenatal care.
"We offer our unreserved apologies for the tragic incident that has affected the life of this child and their family," he added.
"We would like to reassure patients that we have improved our processes to ensure the mistake is not repeated.
"We are pleased the claim has been resolved at this stage, without the need to proceed to a contested hearing, and offer the child and their family our very best wishes for the future."