Compensation awards to clinical negligence victims may sometimes appear eye-wateringly large – but, with the ever-increasing cost of professional care, they are never any more than is needed. That was certainly so in one case, in which a six-year old boy won a record payout from the NHS worth over £37 million.
The boy suffered catastrophic brain injuries as a newborn when a herpes simplex infection developed into devastating encephalitis. A two-day delay in diagnosis meant that his treatment with anti-viral medication came too late to save him from acute disability. He suffers from a constellation of eyesight and communication problems, cognitive and mobility difficulties and behavioural issues.
After lawyers launched proceedings on his behalf, the NHS trust that ran the hospital where he was born swiftly admitted liability. The trust agreed to a compensation package that took the form of a seven-figure lump sum, together with index-linked and tax-free payments to cover the costs of the 24-hour care that the boy will need for the rest of his long life. The capitalised value of the settlement is the largest ever achieved by lawyers in a clinical negligence case.
The trust’s legal team apologised to the boy and his family for a standard of care that had fallen below appropriate standards. In approving the settlement, the High Court paid tribute to the boy’s parents for the quite astonishing care and devotion they had lavished upon him at very considerable cost to their own physical and mental health.