Boyes Turner have secured a liability judgment for a boy with impaired hearing, language and communication, learning difficulties and associated behavioural problems. The injuries arose from an NHS hospital’s delay in recognising and treating his early signs of meningitis when he was 8 months old.
At birth, the claimant was healthy but received 48 hours of intravenous antibiotics because his mother had tested positive for group B streptococcal infection. His 6-8 week and 6-9 month examinations were normal and he continued to develop normally.
At eight months of age, the claimant vomited repeatedly for four days whilst breastfeeding. He had a cough and a high temperature. The GP noted that he had no neck stiffness, diarrhoea or dehydration but his eardrums were red and he was prescribed antibiotics and paracetamol. Two days later he had developed a red rash. His mother telephoned NHS direct and was reassured.
Six days later, the claimant was taken to the defendant hospital’s A&E by ambulance after he developed diarrhoea, a high temperature and had a convulsion (fit). An A&E doctor diagnosed a febrile convulsion, secondary to a viral upper respiratory tract infection. He was admitted to hospital overnight where he had a further convulsion. He was given paracetamol for his high temperature and cooled with a fan. Despite the persistent high temperature, which didn’t respond to treatment, he was discharged the next day. His mother was told to manage his temperature with paracetamol.
The claimant’s condition deteriorated over the next two days. When his mother phoned the hospital to say that his temperature was now 40 degrees, she was told to continue giving him paracetamol and ibuprofen. His temperature remained high and the next day the claimant’s mother took him to the GP. On the GP’s advice, the mother took him straight to A&E. An hour after arrival, the claimant was examined. By this time he was sleepy, floppy, not feeding and passing less urine than usual. A chest x-ray showed his heart and chest to be normal and he was again diagnosed with febrile convulsion secondary to chest infection. No further blood or urine tests were taken. The claimant was discharged from hospital half an hour later with further antibiotics.
In the opinion of Boyes Turner’s medical experts, at this stage the long duration of the claimant’s illness and his persistent, unresponsive temperature should have led the doctors in A&E to question their diagnosis of viral infection. A full examination and septic screen with lumbar puncture should have taken place immediately after the claimant’s examination, and would have revealed the early onset of pneumococcal bacteraemia. At this time the condition would have been treatable and the claimant’s meningitis either avoided completely or its early effects reversed, avoiding the permanent damage which later developed as a result of the progression of the condition. Intravenous antibiotics should have been administered within an hour to 90 minutes of the claimant’s examination and continued for seven days.
Without correct treatment, the claimant continued to deteriorate. His mother took him to A&E at a different hospital three days later. There, a diagnosis of pneumococcal meningitis was made and he was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital. He was ventilated and given intravenous antibiotics but developed renal failure. He needed dialysis on ITU for seven days. He remained in hospital for six weeks.
A CT scan of his brain later showed cerebral infarcts which had been caused by the pneumococcal meningitis. He had weakness on one side of his body which was treated with physiotherapy and resolved by two years of age. He suffered permanent, sensori-neural hearing loss and was fitted with a cochlear implant but his hearing and communication remain impaired. He has visual, motor and intellectual impairment and learning difficulties, requiring specialist education, and has behavioural difficulties associated with his disability.
Boyes Turner’s specialist solicitors investigated the claim and put the case to the defendant hospital. The defendant admitted that the A&E doctors were negligent in failing to carry out a septic screen which would have led to intravenous antibiotic treatment on the evening of the claimant’s second admission to A&E. However, they denied that timely treatment would have avoided the claimant’s permanent brain injury and hearing loss. When they maintained their defensive position after proceedings were issued, Boyes Turner issued an application for summary judgment – forcing the defendant to justify their defence. A week before the hearing, the defendant finally admitted liability.
Boyes Turner have now entered judgment for the claimant and secured an interim payment on account of damages to meet the claimant’s urgent needs, whilst we work with experts to determine the full value of the claim.