After the success of our Cerebral Palsy brain injury training events in Manchester and London, this week we look further at Cerebral Palsy and how families can be supported. CEO of Brain Injury Group member firm Hudgell Solicitors, Amanda Stevens, was invited to speak by the charity, Baby Lifeline, to give her thoughts on a ‘patient’s perspective’ with regards to the legal claims process.
In this article produced for Brain Injury Group she shares her thoughts on the claims process with regard to clinical negligence claims for Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral Palsy and the difficulties of the clinical negligence claims process
Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects movement and co-ordination and can leave children needing long-term round the clock care and support.
It is often caused by a baby suffering from a lack of oxygen at birth or in the immediate aftermath and can be as a result of negligent care during the antenatal period, labour, birth or after birth.
For many families, cerebral palsy is not diagnosed immediately because the signs and symptoms can be quite subtle.
On many occasions it is only when a baby fails to reach developmental milestones in their early years that parents question why and seeking advice, especially if some concerns were raised at any stage of pregnancy or birth, or if the baby had a period of time in intensive care.
Who is listening at that stage though, and who can they turn to at that stage for help?
Many families who contact us for legal advice say we are the first people who have really listened to them, as concerns raised with medical professionals have fallen on deaf ears.
Families who find themselves in this situation need support. They need people by their side who are dedicated to understanding their struggles, and which changes could have the biggest possible, positive impact on their lives.
That is where I believe we, as specialist lawyers, are often the only people doing just that.
Acting fast is imperative to children’s long term development
Children with cerebral palsy often benefit from highly specialised intervention at an early stage and careful monitoring throughout their development, so acting fast is imperative.
Financial support is obviously key longer term, but that it’s not always the overwhelming initial need.
Families may find their accommodation is unsuitable, or they may be in need of specialist therapy or care support.
I am often humbled by the generosity of spirit and abundance of love and devotion that I witness in families affected by cerebral palsy.
However, this should not result in those families facing financial and practical obstacles at every turn as they seek to do what is best for both their child and the family as a whole.
Bringing up a child with a disability is extremely hard work, and families need all the support they can get.
Many children suffering from the milder forms of cerebral palsy often attend mainstream schools, at least initially, and face bewilderment as they feel so different to their peers whilst growing up.
They need full help to access all that life can offer them with their additional needs.
Hudgells Solicitors recently secured £2.4m interim damages in a case which enabled the family of a severely disabled child with cerebral palsy to leave their three-bedroom, rented council house which had been described by specialist surveyors as ‘wholly unsuitable’.
They were able to buy a home suitable for the child, her family and carers for the future, with lawyers having secured approval of this payment in the High Court and instructed a professional property finding company to help.
This kind of support should not be the exception – it should be the norm.
Quicker pathways to support are key in Cerebral Palsy compensation cases
We are passionate about providing a pathway towards quicker care and support for families affected by cerebral palsy moving forward.
The Baby Lifeline seminar was organised to examine the findings of the NHS Resolution report, ‘Five years of cerebral palsy claims’, which examined a selection of cases between 2012 and 2016 where investigations into care were conducted.
The report sadly concluded that not enough is being learned across the NHS and that changes are not happening quickly enough to reduce the number of cerebral palsy cases on wards up and down the UK, with a ‘lack of family involvement and staff support through the investigation process.’
As a former hospital manager who handled complaints and then went on to personally support many families affected by cerebral palsy in my legal career, I can fully understand the fear across NHS Trusts when facing compensation claims.
But far too many cases are defended in a hostile manner by lawyers acting for NHS Trusts keen to avoid paying damages into many millions.
They too easily forget that the entire process is in place to do not only what is the best – but also right – by the child and family affected.
Injured children need specialist help from the start, and any years without are simply years when extra avoidable strain and difficulty are placed on a family.
In reality patients, their families and clinicians are on the same side, as everybody wants better outcomes, and better access to support when things go wrong.
At Hudgell Solicitors, we always commit to ‘seeing the person, not just the claim’.
It is an approach we wish NHS Trusts would adopt too, especially with regards to such life-changing cases and conditions.
Produced by Amanda Stevens, CEO of Hudgell Solicitors
Long term Brain Injury Group member firm Hudgell Solicitors have offices in Hull, Leeds and London.
What is the Brain Injury Group?
The Brain Injury Group exists to support individuals and families affected by brain injury and the health and social care professionals working in this specialist field. Our mission is to provide anyone affected by brain injury with access to advice on legal, financial and welfare benefit issues delivered by proven experts in the field who have been chosen not only for their skills and knowledge, but also for their passion and dedication to helping people.
How can Brain Injury Group help you?
If you would like advice about bringing a clinical negligence claim, capacity, managing the award of compensation or any other aspect of brain injury welfare, legal or financial advice, we have specialist brain injury solicitors and Court of Protection solicitors who can assist.
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