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Lockdown babies and the importance of statutory baby checks

Posted: 11/01/2022

The pandemic is attributed with causing unprecedented pressure on the NHS as providers have grappled with enormous and intense demand. Routine appointments were understandably delayed, cancelled or never made, as finite resources were prioritised to deliver urgent Covid-related treatment. Any hopes and signs that the situation was improving have been dealt a blow by the Omicron variant.

Among those affected are so-called ‘lockdown babies’ – those born in the months of the lockdowns. Routine health checks carried out in the first year or two of a child’s life have long been key to monitoring their progress against developmental milestones. These checks are part of a statutory duty and should include mandatory assessments of risk factors for conditions that include early signs of congenital deformities, including heart defects, cataracts, and developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH).

For most babies, the checks are normal and unremarkable, albeit reassuring to their carers, particularly to those who have no older children against whom to compare and contrast a younger baby’s developmental progress. For some babies, however, the findings give cause for concern and should lead to further, often urgent investigations. If the checks are missed, the opportunity to detect and treat potentially life-changing conditions may be lost.

With the unique circumstances and immense pressure the pandemic has created, a claim that it was negligent for a baby check to have been missed may fail, on the basis that a breach of statutory duty might not give rise to a common law remedy to sue for negligence. Regardless of the legal arguments, the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper would urge parents and carers to be alert if routine baby checks are being delayed or missed, and to make themselves aware of what those checks should comprise.

If parents and carers have any concerns about their child’s development, these should be raised as soon as possible with their GP or health visitor in the first instance, to obtain clinical advice. The clinical negligence team’s significant experience of cases involving the management of congenital and developmental abnormalities has shown that early diagnosis and treatment are key to a good long-term outcome.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP