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High Court rules on negligence claim over delay in diagnosis of meningitis resulting in cerebral palsy

Posted: 26/06/2020

In a recent case (SC (a child, suing by her mother and litigation friend) v an NHS Trust [2020]), the High Court has found that an NHS hospital incorrectly diagnosed a child with tonsillitis and sent her home, despite the child and her parent attending hospital with a letter from their GP confirming a diagnosis of meningitis.

The court found that the child did have pneumococcal meningitis and had this been correctly diagnosed and intravenous (IV) antibiotics given earlier, the child would not have developed right hemiparetic cerebral palsy or cognitive and visuospatial difficulties. 

Emily Hartland, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper, comments: “Cerebral palsy is a life-long condition, which affects movement and co-ordination. It most commonly impacts limb movement but can also lead to learning difficulties and issues with swallowing, speech and vision. This case is an example of the severe and life-changing injuries which can be caused by a delay in diagnosing and treating conditions such as sepsis and meningitis. With these conditions, early treatment is key to avoiding poor outcomes such as amputation or cerebral palsy as they progress very quickly if left untreated.”

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