Judgment and interim payment after delayed treatment of forceps scalp infection causes cerebral palsy

Judgment and interim payment after delayed treatment of forceps scalp infection causes cerebral palsy

Boyes Turner’s neonatal brain injury lawyers have secured a liability (fault) judgment and £150,000 interim (part) payment in an ongoing claim for a boy with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He suffered an injury to his brain in the first few days of life (neonatal period) as a result of hospital delays in treating signs of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection which appeared around forceps grazes on his scalp.

Suspected HSV in pustule-type rash should have been treated with anti-viral acyclovir

The boy was healthy at birth but suffered minor grazes to his scalp during his delivery by forceps. In the days after birth he developed a rash on his scalp as these grazes became infected.  When he was 10 days old, the visiting community midwife noticed that the boy had a ‘pustule type rash’ on his scalp and contacted the neonatal unit at the hospital.  They advised that the baby should be brought to the neonatal unit so that he could be seen by a paediatrician. The same day, he was seen by a consultant who noted that he had infected scalp lesions and that a diagnosis of herpes needed to be excluded. 

When this type of ‘vesicular’ rash with pustules or fluid-filled blisters appears on a newborn baby’s skin, it can indicate that that herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection has been transmitted to the baby during childbirth.  If neonatal HSV infection is suspected, the baby must be treated with anti-viral treatment without delay. In this case, if our client had received correct IV anti-viral treatment, he would have avoided any lasting injury. 

He was admitted to hospital and swabs were taken from the blisters to test for suspected HSV infection, but instead of starting intravenous (IV) acyclovir anti-viral treatment, the doctor decided to delay the acyclovir whilst waiting for the test results. The baby received IV antibiotics (which would not heal a viral infection) for four days and was then discharged home. 

Two days later, the community midwife referred him back to the neonatal unit as he was unwell and was having seizures (fits).  He was readmitted and IV antiviral treatment was finally started, together with antibiotics and anti-convulsant medication. The original swab results were reported that day and showed HSV infection. This was confirmed by lumbar puncture. 

MRI and cranial ultrasound scans later revealed that the boy had suffered a brain injury consistent with herpes encephalitis from the untreated HSV infection. He now has quadriplegic cerebral palsy affecting his movement, with impaired communication and cognitive development. He has  seizures and is gastrostomy fed. He is totally dependent on others and will need full time care for the rest of his life. 

Liability admitted and £150,000 interim payment whilst case ongoing

Our neonatal brain injury lawyers were instructed by the boy’s family to pursue a compensation claim. We investigated our client’s treatment and served a letter of claim on the NHS defendant. The defendant admitted liability (fault). We secured a liability judgment and obtained an interim (part) payment of £150,000 to help meet our client’s immediate needs including a move to more suitable accommodation, provision of equipment and support whilst we work with the family and our experts to value the final claim. 

Our client has the benefit of Court of Protection deputyship. His privacy is protected by an anonymity order. 

I try to assist lawyers by explaining, in clear and comprehensible terms, what the relevant issues are and where the strengths and weaknesses of the case lie.

DR PETER DEAR

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