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Neonatal hypoglycaemia is an avoidable but dangerous condition which causes severe brain injury and disability. It is caused by negligent failure to manage a newborn baby’s blood sugar in the days after their birth. The child’s disability may not be obvious at first. In many cases, their parents remain unaware of the injury or their child’s condition until the child struggles with learning or behaviour in older childhood or teenage years.

Boyes Turner’s neonatal brain injury claims specialists understand the complex nature of brain injuries caused by hypoglycaemia and the challenges they present for the injured child and their family. We are experienced in obtaining compensation for children and teenagers whose neurological disability was caused by incorrect neonatal care.

We aim to make the hospital or healthcare team accept full responsibility for the child’s injury, as quickly as possible. This allows us to obtain early interim payments to help make a difference for our clients. This means that whilst the case is ongoing, money is available to pay for behavioural management programmes and support with education. Families can move to more suitable accommodation or adapt their home to suit their child’s disability and pay for help with care.

We work with experts, our SEN colleagues and our client’s family to ensure that the child’s injury, disability and lifelong needs are properly assessed, to ensure that they are fully compensated and their lifelong needs are met.  

Recent neonatal hypoglycaemia cases

  • £3.1 million lump sum plus lifelong annual payments of up to £133,250pa for a boy whose brain was injured as a result of untreated hypoglycaemia in the days after his birth. Our client had IUGR and was small for dates at birth. This increased his risk of hypoglycaemia, but the defendant hospital staff failed to monitor and maintain his blood glucose at safe levels. The defendant denied responsibility for our client’s injury until shortly before trial. Interim payments of £1million helped pay for a suitable home and a behavioural management programme, whilst the case continued to settlement.
  • Judgment and an interim payment for a boy whose brain was injured by hypoglycaemia in the days after his birth. The midwives’ mistakes included failing to recognise that his low temperature and jitteriness were signs of dangerously low blood sugar. The interim payment will pay for our client’s urgent needs whilst we work to value and settle the claim.
  • Judgment and a large interim payment for a boy who suffered a permanent brain injury when midwives failed to monitor his blood sugar properly despite his low birthweight and increased risk of hypoglycaemia. The defendant hospital admitted liability and the case was then stayed until the boy was old enough for our experts to assess the full impact of his disability and his long-term needs.

What is neonatal hypoglycaemia?

Hypoglycaemia means low blood glucose (low blood sugar). Neonatal hypoglycaemia affects newborn babies who can’t maintain healthy blood sugar levels from feeding in the first few days of life.

Neonatal hypoglycaemia is dangerous if it is untreated, causing permanent brain injury and disability.

Midwives and hospital neonatal care teams are responsible for ensuring that a newborn baby is properly fed, so that their blood sugar does not drop below a safe level. If a baby suffers neurological disability as a result of delayed or incorrect treatment of hypoglycaemia, they may be entitled to claim compensation.

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Who is at risk of neonatal hypoglycaemia?

All babies are at risk of hypoglycaemia immediately after their birth until they have settled into a healthy feeding pattern.

The risks are higher for babies:

  • whose birthweight is below 2.5kg;
  • whose mothers have diabetes;
  • who have intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) and are small for their gestational age (small for dates).

Newborn babies who have none of the risk factors listed above may still be at risk of hypoglycaemia if there are concerns about their feeding. Signs of poor feeding may include: 

  • the baby doesn’t wake up for feeds;
  • the baby doesn’t suck properly during feeding;
  • the baby demands feeding frequently, because they are not receiving enough milk at each feed.
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Neonatal hypoglycaemia is a medical emergency but is preventable with correct midwifery and neonatal care

All newborn babies are at risk of neonatal hypoglycaemia but brain injury from this dangerous condition is avoidable if the baby receives the correct care.  Midwives are required to look out for neonatal hypoglycaemia and take steps to prevent it. They do this by:

  • making sure that a newborn baby is feeding properly and is getting enough milk;
  • checking the blood sugar of babies, particularly those who are at increased risk, by heel-prick blood tests.

If a baby’s blood sugar is low, swift action is needed to bring their blood sugar up to a safe level. In most cases, feeding the baby quickly may restore their blood glucose. If they can feed effectively, their blood sugar may be raised by breastfeeding, expressed breastmilk or by formula milk. In some cases, a baby may need to be given glucose by intravenous infusion (IV drip).

Neonatal hypoglycaemia is a medical emergency requiring fast action to restore and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Delayed treatment of a baby who is suffering from hypoglycaemia may cause lifelong, severe neurological disability from permanent injury to their brain. 

As the severely hypoglycaemic baby’s condition deteriorates, they may show signs of serious illness, including:

  • Hypothermia (low body temperature);
  • Having fits or being jittery;
  • Floppiness;
  • Infection;
  • Respiratory (breathing) difficulties.

Hypoglycaemia may also occur with other serious conditions.

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What mistakes lead to neonatal hypoglycaemia brain injury compensation claims?

Claims for brain injury and disability caused by hypoglycaemia arise from negligent failure or delay in identifying and treating babies with hypoglycaemia. Common mistakes in the care of babies with hypoglycaemia include:

  • Failing to monitor the blood glucose level of a baby who is at increased risk of hypoglycaemia owing to:
    • low birthweight, particularly when the baby is born weighing less than 2.5kg;
    • maternal diabetes;
    • IUGR or being small for gestational age;
    • poor feeding, including:
      • not waking for feeds;
      • not sucking properly;
      • frequently demanding feeding;
      • where the mother expresses concerns about baby’s feeding.
  • Failure or delay in obtaining blood glucose test results;
  • Failure or delay in taking action following a low blood glucose test result;
  • Failing to have a baby with hypoglycaemia reviewed by a paediatrician (doctor);
  • Failing to admit a baby with a diagnosis of significant hypoglycaemia to the neonatal unit (NNU);
  • Delayed or insufficient administration of intravenous (IV) glucose to a baby on the NNU;
  • Failing to advise the mother properly about prevention of hypoglycaemia or how/when to seek help when the baby is discharged from hospital.
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What disabilities can a child develop from negligent neonatal hypoglycaemia management?

Disability from neonatal hypoglycaemia may not be obvious, even to the child’s parents, in the child’s early years.

Unlike cerebral palsy brain injury, disability from hypoglycaemia may only become apparent in later years, when the child or teenager struggles to keep up at school. Without a clear diagnosis, these children may be misunderstood as their disabilities are often complex or partially hidden. In our experience, children and teenagers who have suffered brain injury from hypoglycaemia often need extensive support.

Each individual’s abilities and challenges are unique, and their disability affects them in varying but often complex ways. Our clients with severe brain injury from hypoglycaemia often have one or more of the following disabilities:

  • physical disability, such as cerebral palsy;
  • epilepsy;
  • learning disability;
  • behavioural problems;
  • extensive needs for care and support owing to their independent mobility but lack of awareness;
  • problems with social interaction;
  • visual impairment.
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What compensation can be claimed after medical negligence causes brain injury from neonatal hypoglycaemia?

As with all medical negligence claims, the amount of compensation that can be claimed depends on the severity of the injury and the way it affects the individual’s life.

In our experience, children who suffer brain injuries caused by neonatal hypoglycaemia often need extensive support throughout their lives, even when their mobility and physical independence are less severely impaired. Depending on the injury, disability and the client’s individual circumstances, neonatal hypoglycaemia brain injury compensation may include sums for:

  • pain, suffering and disability;
  • case management;
  • the costs of extensive care and support;
  • therapies and rehabilitation including:
    • behavioural management programmes;
    • psychological support;
    • physiotherapy;
    • occupational therapy (OT);
    • speech and language therapy;
  • increased costs of accommodation or home adaptations;
  • SEN – special educational needs;
  • specialist equipment and aids;
  • adapted vehicles and increased transport costs;
  • medical and surgical treatment costs;
  • loss of earnings and pension;
  • Court of Protection and deputyship costs.
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How much compensation can you get for medical negligence?

How to make a medical negligence claim?

How long do medical negligence claims take?

How to fund a medical negligence claim?

Will I need a medical examination if I make a medical negligence claim for compensation?

Can I make a claim on behalf of a child?

What can medical negligence compensation pay for?

What is HSSIB?

How can you prove medical negligence?

Is there a time limit for claiming medical negligence compensation?

Will I need to go to court to claim medical negligence compensation?

What is causation in medical negligence claims?

Can I claim against the NHS?

Who can make a medical negligence claim?

What is MNSI?

Neonatal brain injury cases

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"Julie Marsh is a first rate litigator"

Julie Marsh is a first rate litigator who adds real value to all her cases. I have always been impressed not just by her expertise as a clinical negligence lawyer but by the way she treats every client as an individual and works on their case as if it is the most important thing in the world, which to many clients it really is.

King's Counsel

"You have given fantastic support and guidance"

Boyes Turner have a great asset in Julie Marsh, she has handled my case with such professionalism and has kept me informed at every stage over the 6 years. She has given me guidance, support and that personal touch where I could ring or email at any time and she would always answer and give me answers to any questions I had. Would recommend without hesitation. Thank you

Boyes Turner Client

"I have been impressed"

Tara Byrne kept me well informed at all stages of my claim. I have been impressed with the way my case was handled, and the time scale within which a settlement was reached.”

Boyes Turner Client

"Very Professional "

Boyes Turner helped me through one of the toughest times in my life. They were very professional whilst remaining friendly. At times the process was emotionally tough but they were very patient with me and went through everything with me until I understood it. I cannot recommend them enough. 

Boyes Turner Client

"We cannot thank Susan and her team at Boyes Turner enough"

Words cannot express how grateful we are to Susan and her team for the level of commitment and dedication shown to our family during a time which would be difficult for anyone. Susan demonstrates a calm professional manner which helped us to feel at ease. Her level of knowledge has proven to be the best in the field and we fully recommend her to anyone seeking to investigate birth injury claims. You can be confident that Susan and her team will scrutinise the medical notes thoroughly and will keep you well informed throughout the process. We are very pleased with the outcome of our child’s case and know that her work has resulted in justice being achieved. Our family will now be able to move forward in the knowledge that the finances are securely in place for our child to receive a suitable care package, purchase equipment and receive necessary lifelong therapy. We cannot thank Susan and her team at Boyes Turner enough.

Boyes Turner Client