Brain damage severity increased by hospital delays

Hospital delays exacerbate cerebral palsy sufferer's brain damage

26.02.2009

The High Court has been informed that hospital staff had made vital errors, increasing the severity of a patient's brain damage.

Christopher Langford, 21, from Tipton has severe mobility problems and developmental delay caused by his cerebral palsy, caused by oxygen starvation at birth. Delays made during his delivery at Sandwell Hospital in 1987 were the cause of his brain injury.

A four day liability trial followed a judgement made against West Midlands Strategic Health Authority.

The Health Authority has been ordered to pay damages to Christopher. The actual amount of compensation, expected to be more than £1 million, is to be confirmed.

Negligence was found to be on the part of the obstetrician who, during Christopher's birth, failed to respond to the midwives' calls after an abnormal heartbeat was discovered. Independent medical experts agreed that an obstetrician should have arrived within five minutes and provided evidence on how long a forceps delivery should have taken, had the obstetrician been present.

Caroline Stokes, a clinical negligence lawyer at Patientlawyers.com, said: "Although the Health Authority had already admitted that an obstetrician should have attended earlier, it had always denied that summoning an obstetrician earlier would have made a difference to the outcome.

"When an unborn baby's oxygen levels start to drop every second is crucial and, as the CTG trace showed, Christopher was clearly in distress. It was the view of Judge Tugendhat that if an obstetrician had attended within 5 minutes of being called, Christopher would have been born 9 minutes later. It was agreed by the independent medical experts that in such circumstances, Christopher would have suffered only a mild degree of brain damage."