A boy aged six who suffered a catastrophic brain injury after contracting the herpes simplex virus has won a record £37 million compensation payment from the NHS.
A court heard that following his birth at Watford General Hospital, the youngster was hit by the disease which developed into a devastating brain infection.
The infection ‘should have been but was not detected and acted upon’ soon enough, said his barrister, Henry Witcomb QC. A two-day treatment delay resulted in ‘catastrophic damage to his brain’, he told London’s High Court.
Mrs Justice Lambert said that the late diagnosis meant a delay in giving him the anti-viral drug, acyclovir.
“The effects of the negligence have been tragic both for the boy and his family,” the judge added.
The boy, who cannot be identified, suffers from eyesight and communication problems, cognitive and movement difficulties as well as behavioural issues.
His lawyers sued West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, for damages.
Mrs Justice Lambert said that the trust admitted liability for what happened to the boy at an early stage, and had agreed to settle his case.
The boy will receive a lump sum pay-out, plus annual, index-linked and tax-free payments to cover the costs of the 24-hour care he will need for life.
The capitalised value of the settlement, calculated over the boy’s lifetime, comes to more than £37million, said Mr Witcomb. This is believed to be by far the biggest ever award in a clinical negligence case, the previous record being around £20 million.
John Whitting QC, for the trust, said its chief executive wrote a letter of apology to the boy’s family in May last year.
He added, on behalf of the trust: “The care which he received was not of an appropriate standard and for that we are acutely sorry.”
Lessons had been learned and steps taken to make sure ‘nothing similar will ever happen again’.
Mrs Justice Lambert praised the ‘quite astonishing care and devotion which has been shown by both parents to the boy, at very considerable cost to their own physical and mental health’.
She paid tribute to their ‘unstinting care and devotion to their son’ and the ‘personal sacrifices’ that they had both made.
“I am pleased to approve the order,” added the judge, who wished the family ‘the very best for the future’.
The boy’s solicitor, Paul McNeil, of law firm Fieldfisher, said after the hearing: “We are grateful to the courts for approving a settlement in this long-running, catastrophic child injury case that has devastated the family.
“The settlement will ultimately enable the family to access funds to pay for vital care, education and therapies for life.
“While we recognise that this is the highest award ever made against the NHS, our hope is that such accidents will never be allowed to happen ever again in the future.”