Medical Law Experts Call For Greater Awareness And Training To Prevent NHS Mistakes
The devoted mum of a little boy who suffers from cerebral palsy after medics failed to act when his blood sugar levels dropped dangerously low shortly after birth has spoken of her joy after he celebrated his fifth birthday with friends – a day she was not sure he would see.
Lucas Hillier, from Sutton Coldfield, has limited movement in his upper and lower body, severe epilepsy, his general development is slow and he also has very poor eyesight. But despite his illness he is thriving at a specialist school, interacting with his class mates who joined him for a birthday party earlier this summer.
Shortly after his birth, Lucas’ devoted mum Kerry enlisted the help of medical law and patient’s rights experts at Irwin Mitchell who helped her in a battle for justice for her son which saw Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust admit last year that if Lucas had received a timely diagnosis and immediate treatment he ‘would have avoided permanent brain injury’.
The mum-of-three, who gave up her job to care for Lucas, received an interim payment last year to provide respite support from a carer and lawyers in Irwin Mitchell’s expert medical law team are now working to secure a full settlement that will ensure Lucas has access to the specialist 24 hour care, rehabilitation and therapy services he needs to give him the best possible quality of life.
An investigation in April this year revealed errors by hospital staff leaving newborn babies with brain-damage are set to cost the NHS more that £235m. NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) figures show that in England in the last 10 years it has received 79 claims for damages of harm to babies relating to undetected or untreated hypoglycaemia.
Kerry is now echoing calls from the firm for greater awareness and training within midwifery services on how to diagnose and treat hypoglycaemia – a potentially fatal condition causing brain damage in newborns..
Kerry, who used to work in public relations, said; “Lucas is a lovely little boy but there were so many times when we weren’t sure what his future might hold so to celebrate his fifth birthday with him was a great occasion..
“He continues to amaze us with his progress and dotes on his two little brothers. He has attended a specialist school since September 2010 and loves swimming and interacting with other children.
“It is reassuring that Lucas does have access to these specialist facilities and we hope the settlement eventually agreed will allow him to have this for life.
“NHS Trusts must spend more time training maternity staff about the dangers of hypoglycaemia and how to spot the symptoms and react quickly. It is hard to come to terms with the fact that if that had happened after Lucas was born, he would be fit and healthy today.”
An investigation into the care Lucas was given at Good Hope Hospital by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust found that if he had been investigated for poor feeding and lethargy (symptoms he was showing) two days after his birth on 21st June 2007, and then promptly treated following the diagnosis of hypoglycaemia, he would not be brain damaged or have developed epilepsy.
Mandy Luckman, a Partner and medical law expert from Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office who specialises in cerebral palsy claims, represents the Hillier family. She said: “The love and support Kerry provides for Lucas is invaluable and has no doubt been instrumental in his progress and development that saw him celebrate his fifth birthday,
“However Lucas does need specialist 24-hour care and is likely to need help for the rest of his life. It is positive that the Trust admitted liability and we hope they will now work quickly with us to ensure Lucas is granted the funds for the specialist care package he needs to help him live his life to his full potential.”
Responding to the NHSLA figures, Mandy continued: “It is beyond belief that such serious mistakes are still happening in this day and age when medical professionals should be fully aware of hypoglycaemia and the potentially fatal risks associated with it.
“Trusts across the country must improve training and awareness of the condition to increase the chances of successfully treating babies and avoiding further health complications.”
Kerry also firmly believes prevention, in the form of breast feeding support, is critical. She continues "Lucas was my first child and I had no idea how important establishing feeding was. I totally relied upon the advice of the midwives and despite his lethargy, I was reassured he was fine and to keep trying.
"I've gone on to have two more children in two different hospitals and have experienced a very inconsistent approach - from fantastic midwifery support and independent 'breast buddies' available on both the ward and at home, to complete complacency and dismissiveness. With my youngest I had to push for a blood glucose test which revealed his levels were low and we were able to monitor him and top him up with formula where necessary.
"I strongly believe, based on numerous accounts from friends and family, that if women are being told 'breast is best' that a consistent and supportive approach needs to be delivered. If this were the case, women would more likely persist with breast feeding and more importantly, children like Lucas wouldn't be left to suffer the horrendous consequences."
If medical errors during birth caused your child’s cerebral palsy, our expert solicitors could help you claim compensation. Visit out Cerebral Palsy Claims page for more information or call or free on 0808 163 4557.