Child, 7, who suffered brain injury at birth, awarded £17.9m payout after hospital admits failures

A seven-year-old with cerebral palsy has been awarded almost £18m after they suffered a "significant avoidable brain injury at birth" at a hospital in south Wales.

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 earlier this year.

The lawyer for the child's family said they suffered a "very serious and entirely preventable brain injury" during birth.

The settlement follows an admission of liability by the health board and will cover the costs of specialist treatment, therapies and lifelong care of the child, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Diane Rostron, a birth injuries specialist lawyer who is representing the family, said the mother was admitted to the Royal Glamorgan hospital with abdominal pain and medical staff failed to treat her with the urgency required.

She said the hospital’s failings started after the mother gave birth to her first child when 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 continued to suffer excruciating pain with no less than three reviews taking place by junior doctors.

“Scans showed the baby’s heart rate was slowing. The hospital continued to fail in its duties and the plan remained to simply observe mother and baby”.

An emergency c-section was performed eight hours after the mother was admitted.

Ms Rostron said due to “significant delays”, and the “failure of senior medical staff”, the baby suffered 27 minutes of slowed heart rate before birth which resulted in "catastrophic injuries".

The child has been diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy which affects the muscles in their legs, developmental delay, learning disabilities, behavioural and sensory issues, and is at risk of developing epilepsy.

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In a statement, the mother said it had been a “long seven-year battle for my family to reach this point.”

“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. Every day is a challenge.”

She said reaching the settlement means the family will be able to afford specialist care and equipment 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.”

Ms Rostron added, “This has been a particularly difficult investigation as the health board failed to be transparent in providing adequate notes and information about the incident. It also failed in its own internal investigation into what happened, incredibly finding that no failing had taken place.

“Our client’s family pursued a complaint direct with the health board but they failed to uphold this. We are pleased they finally admitted liability following five years of litigation - and just two weeks before a trial was due to start in the High Court.”

NHS counsel, Richard Booth QC, acknowledged that "no amount of money" could ever fully compensate for the birth injuries.

But he told the court: "On behalf of the board I would like to apologise wholeheartedly and unreservedly for the regrettable failings in care in this case.

"I would also like to pay tribute to the parents for the outstanding care that they have given their child.

"They are a remarkable child and would not have made the progress without their parents' support."

The health board has released a statement following the case expressing regret and said they are "determined to ensure lessons are learnt".

They said: "We are deeply sorry for the failings in the care provided to the family. We take our responsibilities for providing safe and high quality services extremely seriously. We are determined to ensure that lessons are learnt and improvements are made so we can provide women and families with the best possible care."

Credit: PA Images
  • History of the maternity services scandal at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.

In October 2018, the health board said it may have failed to properly investigate historic cases of still birth and neonatal deaths in its maternity units.

As a result, it said it was reviewing 43 cases at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil and Royal Glamorgan hospital in Llantrisant.

The cases include 20 still births and six neonatal deaths between 1st January 2016 and the end of September 2018 and where there was an "adverse outcome" to mothers or their babies.

Following that review, the health board's maternity services were placed into special measures and the health minister apologised to the families affected.

As part of the external review, more than 140 women and family members shared their experiences of the maternity services, which the chief executive said at the time was "nothing short of heartbreaking".

There were calls for Allison Williams to resign but she said she had a "responsibility to put things right."

Ms Williams resigned in August.

The latest report by an Independent Maternity Service Oversight Panel published in October found there was "still a long way to go" in delivering improvements to maternity services.