Damages awards to clinical negligence victims may appear very large but, given the cost of funding care regimes, they are no higher than is absolutely necessary. In one case, a six-year-old boy who was left seriously disabled by a bout of jaundice in the first few days of his life has been awarded a compensation package worth £9 million.
The youngster's family had a history of jaundice in infancy of which hospital staff were aware. He was delivered in good condition and, although doctors had some slight concerns, he was discharged home. His parents were anxious that he was becoming jaundiced and returned to the hospital four days later. However, that was tragically too late to save him from irreversible brain damage.
Although a happy child, he is wholly dependent on others for his care, has to be fed through a tube and has visual and hearing difficulties. The NHS trust that runs the hospital accepted that medical staff were at fault in failing to arrange a follow-up assessment of his condition at home. His parents had also not been given adequate advice on how to recognise the onset of jaundice.
In those circumstances, the trust agreed to a settlement of the case that comprises a £3.8 million lump sum, plus index-linked and tax-free annual payments to cover the costs of the boy's care for life. Those payments will start at £195,000 a year until he turns 19, when they will increase to £245,000 a year. The High Court approved the settlement.