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Written on 11th October 2022 by Susan Brown

Boyes Turner’s meningitis negligence lawyers have secured a compensation settlement providing a £6.6 million lump sum and lifelong payments for care of up to £276,000 per year for a child whose brain injury and complex neurological disability was caused by delayed treatment of meningitis.  

Our client’s injury left him severely disabled by a combination of neuropsychological, intellectual, social and behavioural difficulties. He will never be able to live independently, work or have mental capacity to manage his own affairs. He will need 24-hour daily care.

Early signs of meningitis

The boy was seven months old when his mother took him to the GP after he had been sent home from nursery the previous day with a temperature, a cough and chestiness. The GP noted that he had a 39-degree temperature with a rattly cough and a runny nose. He was pulling his ears, which with other symptoms can sometimes suggest that a baby has an infection. He was prescribed salbutamol for a virus but was still unwell two days later and not responding to Calpol or Nurofen when his mother took him to the out of hours GP with diarrhoea and vomiting.  He was given antibiotics for an ENT infection but his mother remained worried as he deteriorated over the next two days, becoming lethargic and floppy with a persistent high temperature. After being up all night with him, she took him to the GP who immediately referred him to hospital.

Failure to chase up key blood results led to delays in essential antibiotic treatment for meningitis

He was seen by a junior doctor at 10am. The doctor noted his history and that he was lethargic and floppy and not wanting to open his eyes. His urine and drinking were reduced with anything going straight through him as diarrhoea. He had a high temperature and a blanching rash. The doctor provisionally diagnosed gastroenteritis with dehydration and admitted the boy for IV (intravenous) fluids and blood samples, which were taken at 11am. He asked the registrar to review the child but the registrar was busy.

In hospital the boy deteriorated, becoming more sleepy and difficult to rouse, and whimpering. When the consultant and registrar saw the boy on the afternoon ward round, key blood test results were missing from the medical records. These results should have been available within two hours of the sample. If they had been available, the doctors would have seen that those results were significantly abnormal, indicating a serious bacterial infection. Correct treatment would then have been to carry out a full septic screen and then start IV antibiotic treatment, which the boy would have received by 3pm. If this had happened, our client would probably have recovered from his meningitis without any permanent neurological disability.

Instead, no action was taken to chase the missing blood results and the boy was not reviewed again until the consultant’s ward round the next morning. By this time he had two new non-blanching spots (not fading under pressure) and continued lethargy, diarrhoea and vomiting. The previous missing blood tests were not chased up but new tests were ordered and IV fluids restarted.

The junior doctor was called to see the child at 4.45pm and found him drowsy, difficult to rouse, moaning but responding to pain with a higher temperature. He asked for review by a more senior doctor but the registrar saw him around 45 minutes later. He found the boy floppy and pale and noted possible sepsis or meningitis. The boy was transferred to the HDU (high dependency unit) and started on antibiotics at 7pm. He deteriorated further and needed ventilation on the ITU. He was transferred to a tertiary (higher level) hospital for intensive care treatment. Once he was off the ventilator he was discharged back to the previous hospital. An MRI scan showed damage to the brain, indicating a need for surgery, but ultimately no surgery was needed. 

After his final discharge from hospital, our client’s neurological impairments began to emerge. His motor (movement) development was delayed and he began to experience learning difficulties and problems with attention, communication, behaviour and social interaction at school. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Meningitis brain injury caused by negligent treatment, not Asperger’s syndrome

We put our client’s claim to the hospital, which admitted their mistakes but initially argued that our client’s disability arose from Asperger’s syndrome rather than his brain injury from the delayed treatment of his meningitis, but when our expert lawyers put them under pressure to provide further clarification and to disclose their expert evidence on causation, they admitted liability in full for our client’s neuropsychological injury.

We obtained a liability judgment and interim payments of £300,000, which paid for a case manager, support worker, physiotherapy, occupational therapy (OT), speech and language therapy, canine therapy and psychological treatment, whilst we worked with our experts and the family to assess our client’s lifelong needs and the full value of his claim.

Following negotiations, we secured a settlement which will provide our client with a £6.6 million lump sum and guaranteed lifelong payments of up to £276,000 per year to meet the cost of care.

Our client has the benefit of Court of Protection deputyship and his privacy is protected by an anonymity order.

If you are caring for a child with cerebral palsy or neurological disability from medical negligence and would like to find out more about making a claim, you can talk to one of our solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.