Boy, 6, awarded record £37m in NHS compensation after ‘catastrophic’ brain damage

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By Francesca Marshall

The boy contracted the Herpes Simplex virus which later developed into a devastating brain fever following his birth at Watford General Hospital, London’s High Court heard.

The hospital did not detect the infection quickly enough, citing a two-day treatment delay which resulted in “catastrophic damage to his brain,” the boy’s barrister Henry Witcomb QC said.

The boy, who cannot be identified, suffers from eyesight and communication problems, cognitive and movement difficulties as well as behavioural issues.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust had previously apologised and agreed to settle his case.

The boy’s solicitor said the payout was the “highest award ever” in a clinical negligence case against the NHS.

“The effects of the negligence have been tragic both for the boy and his family,” Mrs Justice Lambert said.

She told the court the Trust admitted liability for what happened to the boy at an early stage.

The boy will now receive the lump sum payout in addition to annual, index linked and tax free payments to cover the costs of the 24-hour care he will need for life.

Mr Witcomb said the value of the settlement, calculated over the boy’s lifetime, comes to more than £37m.

The trust’s barrister, John Whitting QC, said: “The care which he received was not of an appropriate standard and for that we are acutely sorry.”

He added lessons had been learned and steps had been taken to ensure “nothing similar will ever happen again”.

After the hearing the boy’s solicitor, Paul McNeil, said: “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.”

The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The trust is pleased that the court has now given its approval to the resolution of this case,” adding that they strongly regretted the outcome for the boy and they hoped the sum of damages would ensure the boy’s lifetime needs were properly met.

The previous record payment from the NHS is compensation is believed to be around £20 million.

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