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Parents Call For Better Support For Disabled Children As Court Approves £12m Settlement

Boy Left Brain Damaged As Abnormal Heart-Beat ‘Ignored’ During Birth


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

The family of a boy left severely disabled after an abnormal heartbeat was not acted upon during his birth say they hope the NHS invests in better training for midwives and more support for parents to help them cope with babies suffering from serious birth injuries.

The call comes as a High Court Judge at the Royal Courts of Justice today (12 June 2014) approved a multi-million pound settlement from South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for seven-year-old Toby Hart, who suffers from cerebral palsy, epilepsy, has a severe learning disability, is registered blind and needs 24-hour care, support and rehabilitation for the rest of his life.

During his birth at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton in October 2006, Toby’s heart rate slowed drastically but medical staff failed to spot he was in distress and he was born 25 minutes later than he should have been, starving his brain of oxygen and leaving him permanently brain damaged.

Toby now has to live with cerebral palsy and has almost no movement in all four limbs. After discovering the extent of Toby’s injuries his parents Michelle and Matthew Hart instructed specialist medical lawyers to help secure a settlement to help provide the necessary funds to give Toby a better quality of life.

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office have now secured the family a £2m lump sum to help cover costs of treatments, therapies, specialist equipment and adaptations that they need to their home. Toby will also receive annual payments of up to £490,000 for the rest of his life. This is believed to be the largest annual payment ever agreed and will be managed by Irwin Mitchell’s Court of Protection team to ensure that the funds last for the correct amount of time.

Michelle, from Bedale, North Yorkshire, said: “Although nothing can turn back the clock and undo the mistakes made during Toby’s birth, it is a massive relief to know that his care and rehabilitation needs for the rest of his life will be taken care of by the final settlement.

“Being thrust into this situation without any warning when Toby was born opened our eyes to the lack of support for new parents of babies with birth injuries. In the first few years we had to wade through all the administration and systems to apply for things such as therapies and chairs to help him sit up – thankfully now we will be able to support him using the settlement.

“We are incredibly grateful to Irwin Mitchell for their support as we felt extremely isolated when we first left hospital. There was very little help available and more needs to be done to assist parents who suddenly find themselves having to care for a baby who has suffered a birth injury as we did.

“All the current support for parents is focused on being a good mother to a ‘normal’ healthy baby and the last thing we wanted was to be around other parents whose situation didn’t bear any resemblance to our new lives. We constantly had to battle to get support, equipment and therapies that Toby needed and it just highlights how important the settlement is in ensuring that his quality of life is as comfortable as possible for the rest of his life.”

Toby’s parents believe that midwife training should highlight the real-life implications for babies born with brain damage as a result of a birth injury and the direct impact this has on the child and their family. 

Michelle added: “Midwives need to be fully aware and accountable for the consequences of their actions within the delivery room. For example, does the current midwifery training and 'updates' for qualified staff include meeting parents of children who had sustained life changing injuries as a result of a mismanaged birth? 

“Their practice and responsibility has to move away from the confines of the delivery room if the real impact and importance of their role is to be fully understood.  There has to be a shift towards doing everything they can to prevent babies being born with brain damage.”
Angela Kirtley, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said:

Expert Opinion
Toby’s parents have been incredibly resilient over the past seven years as they have had to come to terms with caring for Toby around the clock.

“If the midwife had correctly interpreted the CTG traces of his heartbeat hospital staff would have delivered Toby by forceps ASAP if his condition did not improve and he would not have suffered his brain injury.

“The mistakes made during his birth were unacceptable and have had a life-changing effect not just on Toby, but the entire family and all those close to them. He will be dependent on carers forever and it was vital that they received the support they needed.

“We had previously secured interim payments to provide immediate relief and assistance but the final settlement now gives the family peace of mind that Toby will receive the best possible care and rehabilitation he needs for the rest of his life.”
Angela Kirtley, Partner

If you or a loved one has suffered from a birth injury, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.


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