£3.2 Million Settlement After Trust Admits Critical Delays In Treating Meningitis Led To Brain Damage

Medical Negligence


A 20-year-old man is to be awarded a compensation package of more than £3 million to help fund a lifetime of future care after critical delays by medical staff in diagnosing meningitis left him severely brain damaged.

Mark Thomas, from Blakenall, Walsall, in the West Midlands, was just 12 years old when he developed meningitis in February 2002, but doctors at Walsall’s Manor Hospital failed to recognise the tell tale signs of the potentially fatal illness and a blood test, which would have flagged up meningitis, was not reviewed and acted upon for more than four days.

At one point, his frantic parents were even lectured by a nurse for ‘inappropriate use of A&E services’ but hospital bosses at Walsall NHS Hospitals Trust have since admitted liability for the errors.

The settlement is due to be approved in the High Court, Birmingham on Wednesday 25th November and the family’s solicitor, medical negligence expert Tim Deeming from national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, is now calling for the hospital to prove that it has learnt from its mistakes to ensure no other parents ever have to endure the same agony that Mark’s family have suffered.

Mark's Brain Damage Means He Will Never Live Independently

Mark has been left with brain damage which severely affects his short term memory. As a result, he will never be able to work or live independently. Today’s settlement of £3.2 million will be held in a trust fund for Mark and will provide for his future life-long care needs.

His mother, Elaine, commented: “The past eight years have been such a roller coaster of emotions for us. We know just how close we came to losing Mark to this terrible illness and we are fortunate he is still with us. However, if the doctors had done their job properly and acted more quickly, Mark would now be living a completely normal life. It is so upsetting to think that all the plans and ambitions he had as a young lad will now never be realised.

“Although we have received an apology, we want reassurances from the hospital that lessons have been learned and procedures have been improved so that other children with symptoms of meningitis will not be allowed to slip through the net like Mark.

In the six weeks prior to contracting meningitis back in February 2002, Mark had suffered a series of ear infections which refused to clear up. He was seen regularly by his GP but, by 9th February 2002 his condition had deteriorated to such a point that his parents took him to Manor Hospital where a blood test was taken. The results of this test showed that his ear infection had spread, causing meningeal infection of the brain. Mark was also displaying symptoms of a stiff neck, an aversion to bright lights and extreme lethargy. These symptoms, together with the blood test results, if they had been reviewed, should have rung alarm bells with doctors.

However, rather than admitting Mark into hospital, he was instead sent home and the blood test was not acted upon for five days. His condition deteriorated still further and his desperate parents took him back to A&E on 14th February only to be told by a nurse that his condition was not sufficiently serious and they were “using emergency A&E services inappropriately.”

Mr & Mrs Thomas refused to take Mark home and demanded a second opinion. It was only then that the blood test results from 9th February were reviewed and meningitis was finally diagnosed.

Solicitor Hopes Lessons Are Learned

Tim Deeming, a solicitor with the Birmingham office of national law firm, Irwin Mitchell, who represented the family, said: “The symptoms of meningitis are every parent’s worse nightmare. However, for four days Elaine and David were simply made to feel like over-anxious parents who were bothering A&E staff unnecessarily.

“Independent medical experts have told us that had the results of the blood test been reviewed and acted upon promptly, Mark would have been given appropriate antibiotic treatment and he would not have suffered brain damage.

“Today’s settlement will provide for the substantial life-long care needs Mark requires and gives reassurance for his parents that he will be properly cared for in later life. However, it cannot turn back the clock and we can only hope that the Trust has learned lessons from the mistakes they made in Mark’s care so that no other family will go through the same heartache.”

David Thomas said: “We are relieved that this settlement will allow Mark to be cared for in the way he needs, for the rest of his life.

“He is our only child and we really couldn’t ask for a more wonderful son. Like most young men his age he loves soccer. He is a season ticket holder with Walsall FC and he loves nothing better than going along with me to see them play on a Saturday afternoon. However, his short term memory is so severe that within minutes of the game ending, he cannot even remember the final score.

“There are so many things that he cannot do which other lads his age take for granted. We cannot even leave him alone in the house because he would be too much of a danger to himself. However, we hope that some of the money will help provide for care support which will allow him to have a degree of independence so that he can finally start to live life a little more fully.”