NHS trust pays out £94m in claims for negligence which led to childhood cerebral palsy

Damning figures obtained under freedom of information have exposed Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trusts as being responsible for the second highest payouts for negligence which led to cases of cerebral palsy in a babies.

London NHS trusts paid out a total of £898m in damages across 259 clinical negligence claims over the past 10 years and Lewisham and Greenwich has had to pay out a total of £94.2m of that in 25 separate claims. Some £11.1m in legal costs were also paid out in those cases.

That puts it second on the list of 18 health trusts in the capital, which had to pay an average of £3.4 per claim. Trusts with fewer than five claims against them are not on the list supplied by NHS Resolution statistics.

Only Barts Health NHS Trust, with 34 cases costing nearly £117m, has paid out more in the past decade.

The Trust said the number of incidents have been falling in recent years and that current levels are no longer above the national average.

Robert Rose, head of clinical negligence at Lime Solicitors, which obtained the figures, said: “One of the main causes of cerebral palsy is hypoxic brain injury during childbirth, which is where a baby’s brain gets starved of oxygen.

“Sometimes, this cannot be prevented or it is impossible to work out what caused the child’s injuries.

“However, negligent mistakes by healthcare professionals can lead to a child sustaining a hypoxic brain injury.

“Errors can include delayed delivery, birth injuries, failing to respond to the umbilical cord being wrapped around a baby’s neck, and missing signs of fetal distress, such as meconium.

“Our NHS is fantastic. While the first duty of a healthcare system is to do no harm, sometimes things do go wrong and care falls below medical standards.

“Clinical negligence claims play a critical role in safeguarding patients against negligent treatment.

With no available cure, cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that affects movement and co-ordination.

Those living with the condition may face movement, walking and speech difficulties, learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, hearing or vision loss, epilepsy, spinal deformities and joint problems – requiring ongoing physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and medication.

Caring for and supporting a child with cerebral palsy can be extremely difficult physically, emotionally and financially and many families cannot afford the expensive and essential equipment, care assistance, education, and home adaptations required to help their son or daughter live a fulfilling life.

A spokeswoman for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said: “We are sincerely sorry for the suffering caused to families affected.

“We review all cases of babies with brain injury to identify immediate learning and have established a fetal well-being team to monitor women in labour.

“More than half of the claims date from before 2013, when the Trust was formed, since when our rates for hypoxic brain injury have steadily reduced to become lower than the national average.”

Pictured top: With no available cure, cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that affects movement and co-ordination

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