THE FAMILY of a seven-year-old boy left severely disabled after medical staff failed to spot his abnormal heartbeat during birth were today (June 12) awarded a £12m compensation settlement.
Midwives failed to notice Toby Hart, from Bedale, North Yorkshire, had a drastically slowed heart rate during his birth at Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital in October 2006, and he was born 25 minutes late.
Toby’s brain was starved of oxygen leaving him permanently brain damaged, and he now lives with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and has almost no movement in all four limbs.
He is also registered blind, has a severe learning disability, and needs 24-hour care and rehabilitation for the rest of his life.
But in a landmark ruling from Mrs Justice Nicola Davies at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, Toby’s parents Michelle and Matthew have been awarded a £2m lump sum from South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
They will also receive annual payments of £490,000 for the rest of his life – thought to be one of the highest annual payments ever agreed.
The funds will help cover costs of treatments, therapies, specialist equipment and adaptations needed for Toby at home.
The agreement comes just weeks after it was announced that the Friarage Hospital would be downgraded to a midwife-led unit – a development met with outrage from campaigners who are consulting lawyers about a judicial review.
Mrs Hart said: “Although nothing can turn back the clock and undo the mistakes made during Toby’s birth, it is a massive relief to know that his care and rehabilitation needs for the rest of his life will be taken care of by the final settlement.
“Midwives need to be fully aware and accountable for the consequences of their actions - there has to be a shift towards doing everything they can to prevent babies being born with brain damage.”
She added: “Being thrust into this situation without any warning when Toby was born opened our eyes to the lack of support for new parents of babies with birth injuries.
“In the first few years we constantly had to battle to get support, equipment and therapies that Toby needed and it just highlights how important the settlement is in ensuring that his quality of life is as comfortable as possible for the rest of his life.”
A spokeswoman for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are sorry that the care afforded to Mrs Hart and to Toby fell below an acceptable standard and that Toby suffered very substantial injuries as a result.
“We have apologised for the failings and that apology is repeated together with every good wish to Toby and his family.
“The trust acknowledges that no amount of money can compensate for the damage suffered but it is hoped at least that the agreed sum will give some financial security and provide for Toby's needs.”
A spokesman for Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The recent independent review of our proposed model for maternity services at the Friarage confirmed it is based on significant clinical evidence which will deliver the best and safest care for local mothers and children.”