A little girl who was left severely disabled after her birth at a Preston hospital is at the centre of a £14m damages claim – one of the biggest ever against the NHS.
The eight-year-old, who cannot be identified, sustained devastating brain damage following her delivery at the Royal Preston Hospital in 2006.
She is quadriplegic, suffers with cerebral palsy and behavioural difficulties and stands no chance of ever living independently or working for a living.
Her parents have worked tirelessly to look after her, but are now claiming damages of more than £14m on her behalf to cover the cost of her care.
“This is a tragic case,” the family’s barrister William Featherby QC told the High Court in London. The Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has long since admitted liability to pay damages, but is contesting the full amount.
The court heard that the baby sustained severe brain damage as a result of infections, meningitis and septicaemia, shortly after she was born.
It had “catastrophic mental and physical consequences” for the little girl, making her the “agonisingly demanding focal point” for her parents, Mr Featherby said.
The family have problems changing her, undressing her and transferring her, particularly when she needs to be showered. And crying fits which can last for hours have had a serious effect on the lives of other children of the family.
She is also prone to harming herself or her carers with bites, kicks and scratches.
The court heard it is accepted that the girl will receive very substantial damages, including annual payments to fund her care. But the parties do not agree on the amount, with the level of care she needs at the centre of the disputes.
The Trust says she does not need two carers all the time and that only one carer is needed at night.
Mr Featherby said that was ‘unrealistic’, adding that two carers 24 hours a day are ‘essential’ to meet her needs.
“She is already, aged eight, too large for one carer to lift or transfer unassisted,” he told the court. “She does not wet or soil her nappies at regular times.
“She has fits of high-pitched screaming, kicking, scratching, pinching, grabbing and involuntary movement at odd times, and these can be prolonged and distressing.”
The hearing continues.