Peterborough City Hospital have been ordered to pay £7 million compensation to a seven year-old girl who suffered catastrophic brain injuries during birth.
The little girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was starved of oxygen during her 2011 delivery and needs a team of two carers to look after her, 24 hours a day, her barrister, Henry Witcomb QC, told the High Court in London.
The QC said the girl was “amongst the most disabled children” he had ever come across in his professional life representing injured youngsters.
Her intellect is profoundly impaired; she can barely see, is unable to speak and has to be fed through a tube, the court heard.
She also suffers from epilepsy and osteoporisis, so that her bones can easily break under pressure. She cannot move even to lift her own head, said Mr Witcomb.
But the barrister added that, mercifully, she has a good sense of hearing and gets great pleasure from listening to music.
“She is a child of a gentle nature and, given the extent of her disabilities, it’s surprising how serene she is,” he told the court.
“She communicates in a very subtle way and, within her small world, she does derive pleasure.”
Mr Witcombe said that the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had admitted liability for her birth injuries.
And, following negotiations, the trust had agreed to settle her claim for a lump sum of £1.6 million, plus annual, index-linked payments to cover the costs of her care for the rest of her life.
Those payments will start at £250,000-a-year, but will increase on her 19th birthday to £311,000-a-year. Mr Witcomb said the girl’s life expectancy was limited but the overall capitalised value of the settlement came to just short of £7 million.
The QC thanked the NHS trust for its “constructive” approach to settling the girl’s case and paid tribute to the “remarkable, thoughtful and intelligent” way in which her mother had cared for her.
Alex Antelm QC, for the trust, described the case as “sad and very serious” and praised the huge commitment the mother had shown to her daughter.
Approving the settlement, Judge Hugh Mercer QC said: “The sums of money involved are on any view large”. However, he emphasised that every penny will be needed for the little girl’s care and that it was nothing like a lottery win.
“This is a tragic case, as the trust fully accepted...fortunately, she has no difficulty hearing and I understand that music gives her great pleasure.”
The judge said £95,000 of the total sum would be paid to the mother as some reflection of the great care she has lavished on her daughter. “I am not sure that that sum is adequate,” he told the court.
Dr Kanchan Rege, Medical Director at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Peterborough City, Hinchingbrooke and Stamford and Rutland Hospitals, said: “The case concerning today’s court settlement is an extremely sad one which we fully appreciate resulted in an extremely severe birth injury.
“The events that occurred during the delivery of this child were thoroughly investigated at the time and lessons have been learned from the mistakes that were made.
“We would once again like to express our apologies and send our very best wishes to the child and her family.”