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High Court approves £21.6m payout for child who suffered brain injury at birth

By David Thomas

London hospital trust admits injuries ‘could have been avoided’ if appropriate care had been provided.

A teenage girl with severe physical and learning disabilities has been awarded compensation worth £21.6 million after a London hospital NHS Trust admitted that her injuries could have been avoided if appropriate care had been provided.

The child, known as GHJ to protect her identity, was born at West Middlesex University Hospital  following a difficult and traumatic labour during which doctors delayed performing a section despite signs of distress.

While GHJ was eventually delivered via emergency C-section, she was born unresponsive and not breathing. Initially declared dead, a faint pulse was detected after 28 minutes, and after resuscitation, she took her first breath.

However, an scan at seven days old sadly showed signs of an acute profound hypoxic ischaemic insult a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation. A further scan at one year and three months confirmed a brain injury, resulting in long-term physical, mental and learning disabilities that impact her ability to live independently.

GHJ will require ongoing care and supervision for the rest of her life, as well as further therapy, treatment, and access to specialist accommodation and equipment.

Following her ordeal, GHJ’s mother instructed leading medical negligence experts at Switalskis to investigate the care she received and whether more could have been done to protect her baby from harm.

Switalskis, led by birth trauma specialist David Thomas , brought action against the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, alleging that it had breached its duty of care by delaying emergency C-section, causing irreversible damage that would impact GHJ for the rest of her life.

Further to the legal claim, the Trust admitted full liability, acknowledging that it should not have allowed a junior registrar to attempt delivery of the baby or subsequently start the emergency section.

It added that a ‘more experienced senior doctor had been available at the time and should have taken the lead to deliver the baby in such an emergency situation’.

At a High Court Hearing earlier this week Mrs. Justice Heather Williams approved a £21.6 million compensation package comprising a lump sum of £6.2 million and RPI linked annual payments for the rest of GHJ's life.

In a letter handed to the mother at the start of the Court Hearing, Leslie Watts CBE, Chief Executive of Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust offered her "sincerest apologies" for the harm caused, acknowledging that GHJ’s injuries "could have been avoided if appropriate care had been provided". The letter expressed hope that the financial settlement would provide access to the care and support needed to help GHJ "thrive and reach her maximum potential”.

Speaking on behalf of the family following the outcome, David Thomas, director and solicitor, said, "Everyone deserves to have a safe birthing experience, and whilst tragic outcomes can occur in emergency situations, a complete disregard for patient safety policies and procedures is unacceptable.

“In this case, my client has fought for many years to secure justice for her child who will face unimaginable challenges throughout her life because of wholly avoidable injuries caused by negligence.

“Whilst we are pleased to have secured a settlement that will provide her with the care and financial security needed, and which gives her family some sense of justice, it is also important to acknowledge the positive impact that the Trust’s unreserved apology has had.”

He added: “The full apology came unexpectedly at the start of the High Court Hearing after many years of the family feeling unheard.

“It is the mothers hope that the NHS takes note of the emotional trauma that such delays can have after such a harrowing experience, and that improved candour and transparency is implemented as part of the wider review into maternity services to ensure that no one else suffers as she has.”

In a statement, GHJ's mother added: "It has been a long journey for my family to reach this point and I still get upset when I reflect on events in the delivery room and the way in which my concerns were dismissed. Every day is a challenge, but this settlement means we can afford specialist care, therapies and meet my daughter’s accommodation needs for her future.

“I am absolutely convinced that therapeutic cooling of my daughter’s brain at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital in the hours following her birth saved her from a worse fate and I would like to see specialised cooling facilities in all maternity hospitals.

“I would also like to extend my gratitude to my legal team for their help, support, and guidance throughout my battle for justice. It has been invaluable.”

Why Switalskis?

Switalskis are passionate about supporting victims of medical negligence. We do this by ensuring that you have access to first class lawyers, who can 
demonstrate the necessary skills and expertise which is essential when acting for clients in birth injury claims .

If you'd like to speak to one of our specialist solicitors, call us on 0800 138 0458  or email


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David has worked in the legal sector for over 30 years.  He is a Director in our Medical Negligence team and heads up our London office.

Director and Chartered Legal Executive

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