London NHS trust pays out £21.6m to girl left with life-changing injuries at birth

The girl was born at West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, West London (PA Archive)
The girl was born at West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, West London (PA Archive)

A teenage girl with severe physical and learning disabilities has been awarded £21.6m in compensation after a London NHS Trust admitted that her injuries could have been avoided if better care had been provided.

The child, known as GHJ to protect her identity, was born at West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth following a difficult and traumatic labour.

Doctors initially delayed performing a Caesarean section despite signs of fetal distress.

While GHJ was eventually delivered via emergency C-section, she was born unresponsive and not breathing. After being declared dead, a faint pulse was detected after 28 minutes and she was resuscitated.

An MRI scan at seven days old revealed that GHJ was showing signs of brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation.

A further scan at one year and three months confirmed that she had suffered a brain injury that would cause long-term physical, mental and learning abilities.

GHJ will require ongoing care and supervision for the rest of her life, as well as further therapy, treatment, and access to specialist accommodation and equipment.

Her mother instructed medical negligence lawyers from Switalskis to investigate the care that she received.

She brought a legal claim against Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, which operates the hospital, alleging that it had breached its duty of care by delaying the C-section. This decision caused irreversible damage to GHJ, it is claimed.

The Trust has since admitted that it should not have allowed a junior registrar to attempt ventouse delivery of the baby or subsequently begin the emergency C-section.

It added that a “more experienced senior doctor” should have been available to deliver the baby.

The dates of the procedure and GHJ’s name have not been made public due to an anonymity order.

At a High Court hearing last week, Mrs Justice Heather Williams approved a £21.6 million compensation package for GHJ and her family.

In a letter handed to GHJ’s mother at the start of the hearing, the Trust’s CEO Leslie Watts CBE offered her "sincerest apologies" for the harm caused, acknowledging that GHJ’s injuries “could have been avoided if appropriate care had been provided”.

The letter also expressed hope that the financial settlement would provide access to the care and support needed to help GHJ "thrive and reach her maximum potential”.

‘My concerns were dismissed’

In a statement, GHJ's mother said: "It has been a long journey for my family to reach this point and I still get upset when I reflect on events in the delivery room and the way in which my concerns were dismissed. Every day is a challenge, but this settlement means we can afford specialist care, therapies and meet my daughter’s accommodation needs for her future.”

She added that therapeutic cooling of her daughter’s brain at Queen Charlotte and Chelsea’s Hospital, in East Acton, may have “saved her from a worse fate” and called for specialised cooling facilities to be installed in all maternity hospitals.

Speaking on behalf of the family following the outcome, David Thomas, Legal Director of Switalskis, said: “My client has fought for many years to secure justice for her child who will face unimaginable challenges throughout her life because of wholly avoidable injuries caused by negligence.

“Whilst we are pleased to have secured a settlement that will provide her with the care and financial security needed, and which gives her family some sense of justice, it is also important to acknowledge the positive impact that the Trust’s unreserved apology has had”.

A spokesperson for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust told the Standard: “We have sincerely apologised to the patient and their family for the failings they experienced. We always strive to reach the highest standards, and we are continuously learning and improving so that all our patients are as safe as possible.”