Lawyer Calls For Lessons Learnt To Be Shared
Lawyers representing a boy who suffered brain damage when midwives sent him home despite blood tests showing he had ‘dangerously low’ blood sugar levels at birth called for lessons learnt from the devastating error to be shared across the NHS after he was awarded £6.5m to fund his future care at the High Court today.
Ewan Waker, now 15, was born at Harold Wood Hospital in Havering, East London in April 1996 following a normal pregnancy but, concerned about his small size and how much he was feeding, his mum Cecilia, now 48, asked the midwives for help and guidance.
Blood tests quickly revealed that he was suffering from neonatal hypoglycaemia - low blood sugar levels – but, despite the worrying diagnosis, the test results were not acted upon and the newborn was sent home where his condition deteriorated.
Medical law and patient’s rights experts from Irwin Mitchell who represented the family in their battle for justice said it wasn’t until a community midwife visited them at their home in Romford that the extent of his illness was spotted, and he was rushed to a Special Care Baby Unit.
The delay left Ewan with irreversible brain damage, severe visual impairment and learning difficulties; a combination which has left him struggling with basic day to day tasks and in need of specialist care for the rest of his life.
Anita Jewitt from Irwin Mitchell, which specialise in complex cases such as Ewan’s, welcomed Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust’s early admission of fault in the case. A move which has enabled the firm to quickly establish his care needs and ensure he has access to the funds he needs to move forward with is life as quickly as possible.
She said: “Ewan is a very caring boy who, with a great deal of assistance from his family, strives to fulfil his potential to achieve the very best from life.
“However, the fact remains that the hospital’s failure to diagnose Ewan’s dangerously low blood sugar levels has meant he will need 24 hour care and assistance for the rest of his life. The combination of Ewan’s visual impairment and learning difficulties make certain tasks very difficult for him and expert evidence obtained confirmed that if his blood test results had been acted upon before he was discharged from hospital, his glucose levels could have been corrected and his injuries avoided.
“This evidence is reflected in the hospital’s admission of liability and I am pleased that in this particular case, the NHS Litigation Authority made a sensible, early admission which has enabled the family to access the funds they desperately needed far quicker than is usually the case. It is now imperative that lessons learnt are shared across the NHS to prevent future heartache”
Anita went on to say that the settlement had been carefully structured to make sure Ewan has enough money to ensure he has access to the very best, specialist, 24-hour care and support he will now need for the rest of his life.
She said: “The money will be managed by the Office of the Public Guardian and Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Court of Protection team to ensure the money is managed and can only spent in a manner that is in Ewan’s best interests.”
Cecilia Waker said: “It was clear to me after Ewan was born that something wasn’t quite right. He was feeding all of the time.
“I used to be a nurse and I remember smelling acetone on Ewan’s breath. It can smell a bit like pear-drops and I knew from my experience of caring for the elderly that this can be a sign of low blood sugar levels or dehydration. I raised these concerns with the midwives but Ewan was still discharged.
“I am pleased that the hospital accepted responsibility for what happened, and I hope that lessons can be learnt within the Trust to prevent the same thing from happening again.
“Ewan is a very loving and caring boy but things are difficult for him. To think that it could all have been avoided is hard to accept.
“The compensation awarded to Ewan has come as a huge relief to us all, and will ensure he has access to the very best care and can live as independently as possible with his injuries.
“He plans to attend a specialist residential college when he leaves school which will help him further develop his independence and life skills. I, and the rest of Ewan’s family, are very relieved that his future is now secure.”