Lifetime Care Settlement From NHS Trust After Meningitis Treatment Errors

Court Approves Care and Rehabilitation Package For Nine-year-old Victim After Hospital Admitted Responsibility For Her Condition

07.07.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A nine-year-old girl who suffered serious brain damage as a result of significant delays in diagnosing and treating her meningitis at Colchester Hospital when she was just a baby has had a £5.5m lifetime care and rehabilitation settlement approved by the Royal Courts of Justice today (7 July).

Ellie Sutton, from Witham, was just eight months old when she was referred to the paediatric unit at Colchester Hospital after her GP suspected she was suffering from meningitis. However the hospital failed to follow their own guidelines which recommend that any child with a temperature of more than 38°c should be kept in and monitored hourly.

Instead she was discharged shortly after arriving despite a recorded  temperature as high as 39.9°c. Even after Ellie’s mother took her back to the hospital later that evening and the doctor recommended her condition was investigated further, a medical review was not conducted until the ward rounds 11 hours later.

Ellie’s mother Sarah Sutton, instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her treatment after Ellie was left with severe brain damage and now needs care and assistance for the rest of her life. She also suffers from epilepsy and learning difficulties which affect her speech.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust admitted that without the delays in treatment Ellie would have made a full recovery and Irwin Mitchell has now secured a £2.4m lump sum settlement with further annual payments which will eventually reach £119k every year for the rest of Ellie’s life to cover her 24-hour care, physiotherapy, transport costs, therapy, specialist equipment and suitable adaptations to her accommodation so she can live as independently as possible. The funds will be managed by Irwin Mitchell’s Court of Protection team to ensure they last for Ellie’s lifetime.

Tom Mather, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing her said:

Expert Opinion
The hospital missed several opportunities to recognise that Ellie was severely ill, despite her mother’s concern over her daughter’s condition.

“It is particularly difficult to accept that the hospital did not follow its own guidelines, and that there was an 11 hour delay even when it had been acknowledged that Ellie may have been suffering from a serious illness.

“As a result of these errors Ellie will have very significant long term care needs and it is likely that she will never be able to look after herself. Although nothing can turn back the clock, the settlement approved by the court today gives the family the peace of mind that Ellie will be provided with the very best rehabilitation and care for the rest of her life.”
Tom Mather, Partner

Ellie’s mother Sarah said: “We were devastated when we found out that Ellie had suffered brain damage and even more heart-broken for her when we found out her condition could have been avoided had simple errors not been made.

"To watch our daughter struggle with everyday life is devastating on our family and no matter what happens nothing can change that. I strongly urge everyone to trust their instincts when it comes to their loved ones, we put our trust in the professionals and they do fail leaving disastrous consequences. Nobody will know your children like you do and with Meningitis every second really does count.

Ellie is an amazing little girl and we are very proud of her determination in life and will be behind her every step of the way.

“We are incredibly relieved that the case has fully settled as Ellie will now have the means to get the care and expert rehabilitation that she needs to help in her everyday life and as a parent it’s a huge relief knowing that she will receive support into her adult life too.”

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