Life-long Care Package Secures Joel’s Future

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation


Life-long Care Package Secures Joel's Future

Parents of an eight-year-old boy left severely disabled after mistakes made during his birth at a North East hospital have won a battle to provide for his life-long care – but hit out at the lack of support from social services that forced them to take legal action.

Sarah and Nigel Collier instructed clinical negligence specialists at leading law firm Irwin Mitchell to make a claim against Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust after their son, Joel, was left with cerebral palsy following more than an hour of foetal distress during his birth.

The family's solicitor, Jennifer Cawthorne, expert clinical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, has secured a settlement which will provide life-long support for Joel, who now needs round-the-clock care.

The terms of the settlement were agreed during a High Court approval hearing in Newcastle – annual payments will be made for the rest of Joel's life to ensure his care needs are met.

Jennifer Cawthorne, from Irwin Mitchell, said: "Lessons must be learnt from cases like Joel's. Too many children are left permanently and severely disabled because of avoidable medical mistakes and their families are left to pick up the pieces with inadequate help. This settlement will allow Nigel and Sarah to give Joel the highest possible quality of life.

"The Colliers are a hard-working family whose lives have been completely changed by the mistakes made at Joel's birth. It was an extremely difficult decision for the family to begin legal action but they feel that as they were given so little support from social services they had to do what was best for their family."

Mr Collier said they had been initially reluctant to take legal action but that the lack of support from social services, which meant they had to fight for everything they needed to help Joel, had forced their hand.

He said: "I am not convinced that lessons are being learned and consequently tragedies like the one my family has to live with day after day will continue to happen.

"Originally we didn't want to take action but, after giving the state a chance to help us and make good their error it gradually became clear just how poor the infrastructure of support was. After facing constant battles for even the smallest amount of support for Joel we found that what we managed to 'win' one day could be easily withdrawn the next, so we were left with no choice.

"Joel is our primary concern and we simply had to seek help to make the immediate life of our son more bearable and to secure the best possible future for him," Nigel added.

Sarah, 40, had enjoyed a trouble-free pregnancy with Joel, her second child, who was born at Gateshead's Queen Elizabeth Hospital on January 27th 2002. However during labour, his heart rate dropped significantly and eventually had to be delivered using forceps. Joel had to be resuscitated after birth and later tests showed that he had been asphyxiated.

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability in 2008 for the mistakes made during Joel's birth and the family also received an apology from the Trust.

Nigel added: "The legal case has been, at times, very upsetting but Jennifer Cawthorne at Irwin Mitchell has been so helpful and supportive throughout. I would strongly advise anyone agonising as we did to go ahead with a claim, in order to access the vital support and resources needed to make life as 'normal' as it could be, had their child been born healthy and without mistakes.

"In a sense we're lucky in that we had 'a case'. There are thousands of families in similar situations through nobody's fault, as cerebral palsy and other such devastating conditions can occur naturally. What is the future for those families? I think at best they will always, as we did, lurch from one confrontation, frustration and disappointment to another with inadequate support, inadequate equipment and inadequate facilities."