Bereaved parents who claim their disabled son was let down by NHS can't afford to take legal action

JUSTICE comes at a price these days and the cost is agonisingly out of reach for the grieving parents of Oliver Brange.

Wednesday, 7th September 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th September 2016, 2:22 pm
Karen Gilmore and her husband Peter Brange are fighting to get justice

hey claim their severely disabled son died aged 25 after being let down by the NHS in Lancashire.

But Karen Gilmore and Peter Brange have no money to take on the health authorities over his death – and legal aid is no longer available in cases where there are claims of clinical negligence.

“I never thought I’d see the day in this country when justice was only available to the rich and not the poor,” said Karen.

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“We believe Oliver might still have been with us had it not been for the way he was treated by the NHS.

“But we are struggling to take the matter any further because we can’t afford a solicitor.”

Oliver’s story highlights what many feel are grossly unfair cuts to legal aid.

Clinical negligence claims are among civil actions which no longer attract funding from the public purse.

So Karen, 56, and 65-year-old Peter, whose only income comes from benefits and the state pension, have found themselves priced out of pursuing a full inquiry.

“I never thought I’d see the day in this country when justice was only available to the rich and not the poor,” said Karen. “We don’t have the money to get legal representation to take Oliver’s case forward.

“I’ve tried numerous solicitors’ firms and none of them is prepared to take the case on a no win, no fee basis. I suppose that’s because cases like this can take so long and in the end there’s no guarantee we would win.

“It’s so unfair. It looks like the justice system will let our little boy down just as the NHS did. After all the suffering he went through he doesn’t deserve that.”

Oliver, who was left physically and mentally handicapped after suffering brain damage at birth, died in the Royal Preston Hospital two years ago from aspirated pneumonia, caused by inhaling his own vomit.

The 25-year-old had been taken ill with a urinary infection, but his parents claim he was not given the correct strength of antibiotics for 11 days.

By the time he was admitted to hospital his condition had worsened to the point where he was having fits. He subsequently died in the critical care unit.

“If they had given him the right antibiotics at the right time he would have still been here with us today,” said Karen. “But they left him for 11 days and we think that delay proved fatal. He should have been taken in when they discovered he had an infection. But they didn’t. Three times they saw him in clinic and three times they sent him home. By the time we had to take him to A&E I think it was too late.”

Karen and Peter took their case to the Health Ombudsman who asked the local NHS Trust to give the family a full explanation. But Karen claims the report she received was not detailed enough and has asked the Ombudsman to review the case again.

“I’ve contacted solicitors and barristers and I can’t get anyone to help us,” she said. “I’ve been told there isn’t any legal aid now for clinical negligence cases. So, effectively, people like us aren’t entitled to any justice.

“Pursuing cases like ours is only for people with money now. And that’s terribly wrong. What an awful justice system we have if it only helps the rich and not those who don’t have money.

“How many other people might there be in our position? I feel very strongly about this because it isn’t fair for the law to discriminate between people who have money and people who don’t.

“I’m not accusing anyone in particular, just the system which let our son down. But unless we can get legal support we can’t get any further.

“It’s not about getting damages, it’s about making sure that what happened to Oliver doesn’t happen to anyone else. I would hate another family to suffer what we have suffered.”

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust was unable to comment at the time of going to press.

But last year, it expressed sincere condolences to the family and offered to meet with them to discuss the case further.