A seven-year-old Horsham boy, born catastrophically disabled due to what lawyers say was a “catalogue of errors” by midwives, has won an NHS compensation package worth £8.5 million.
Midwives at the Princess Royal Hospital, in Haywards Heath, are said to have failed to monitor Alfie Buck’s heart rate for over 12 hours of his mother’s labour and to deliver him by emergency Caesarean section early enough to save him from brain damage.
Alfie’s intelligence was largely spared, but he suffers acute cerebral palsy and agonising spasms and appeared in court today (Thursday April 18) in a motorised wheelchair alongside his devoted parents, Samantha and Andrew Buck, who live in Horsham.
According to the family’s lawyers, Alfie would probably have escaped injury to his brain had he been delivered just 20 minutes earlier.
After making a full admission of liability - and issuing a public apology in open court today - the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust today agreed to a financial settlement which will see Alfie properly cared for for the rest of his life.
In an deal valued overall at £8.5 million, the trust will pay a lump sum of £3,850,000, plus annual, index-linked and tax-free payments to cover the enormous costs of looking after Alfie.
Those payments will start at £165,000-a-year, rising to £195,000-a-year when Alfie is 12 and then rising again to £240,000-a-year when he is 19.
The fund, which will be managed by the Court of Protection, will fund a new wheelchair-accessible home for the family with space for live-in carers and cover the cost of a range of therapies to improve Alfie’s quality of life.
Samantha Buck said after the hearing: “Alfie has a great sense of hnumour and his brother and sister, Louis, 10, and Jessica, 13, dote on him.
“The cerebral palsy affects all his limbs making movement very difficult, but his mind is very bright and he can communicate by using specialist equipment that tracks eye movement.
“He continues to amaze us and his teachers at his specialist school and he truly is an inspiration.
“Having said that, caring for a child with cerebral palsy has to be the toughest job in the world as it is 24/7 and consumes your life.
“Not long after he was born the doctors told us brain scans showed severe abnormalities and it was hard not be bitter and angry. It just felt very unfair as Alife didn’t deserve it.”
She added: “We have tried to give Alfie the best qualify of life possible but the older and bigger he gets, the more his care needs increase.
“The settlmeent gives us peace of mind that he will always have access to the best possible treatment, equipment and services. We were also relieved to hear that the trust has learnt lessons and hope these will continue to be implemented by all midwives.
“Nothing can turn back the clock or improve Alfie’s condition, but we can now all look to the future and concentrate on enjoying life as a family knowing we are equipped to deal with whatever the future holds.”
The family’s solicitor, Jane Weakley, added: “This case was about securing Alfie’s future but the family were also keen to see that steps were taken by the trust to ensure that the same mistakes couldn’t happen again.
“We hope any lesson that have been learnt here are shared across the NHS and improvements are made in midwifery training and staffing levels.”
The trust’s barrister, Paul Rees QC, had earlier issued a ‘unreserved apology’ to Alfie and paid tribute to the care lavished upon him by his parents and siblings.
He told the court: “Nothing I can say can turn back the clock, but Alfie and his family are entitled to hear a public apology in open court. I wish also to pay public tribute to the commitment and insight of Alfie’s parents and the contribution of his siblings, which should not be forgotten.”
Miss Weakley added outside court: “Alfie’s family have shown tremendous devotion and support to help him achieve the best quality of life possible but the fact remains that his brian injury is so severe that heneeds specialist help from professionals.
“Our investigations showed that midwives were aware that Samantha was at risk of developing high blood pressure but failed to provide basic midwifery care through monitoring and record keeping, resulting in irreparable brain damage.
“It was a tragic catalogue of errors.
“The settlement agreed today showes how complex Alfie’s care needs are and ensures he has access to the huge level of support, specialist equipment and therapies he will need as he grows into adolescence and adulthood.”
Miss Weakley revealed that, in a letter sent to the family by the trust’s chief executive in 2011, he acknowledged the errors made by midwifery staff and that, had he been delivered earlier, he would have been unharmed.
The letter went on: “I wish to assure you that the trust has learned lessons from the failure of this case.”