The NHS has apologised to a Tadcaster teenager who won the right to multimillion-pound compensation after a bout of virulent meningitis left her with permanent disabilities.
Lauren Ansell is now “profoundly deaf” and plagued by chronic communication problems due to the devastating bacterial meningitis which developed when she was just eight months old.
Her mother rushed her to Hertfordshire’s Hemel Hempstead General Hospital on her GP’s advice, but her condition steadily worsened between January 4 and January 6, 1999, culminating in recurring seizures and brain damage.
Her solicitor, Sue Jarvis, said it was Lauren’s case that hospital staff initially “failed to appreciate how ill she was and tried to send her home”.
By the time she was diagnosed with the bug it was too late to treat it comprehensively with antibiotics, her lawyers argued.
Lauren, now of Auster Bank Road in Tadcaster, has problems with coordination and balance and her speech is difficult to understand. However, the 14-year-old was described as a highly “sociable” schoolgirl.
She was at London’s High Court, flanked by her mother, as her QC, Simeon Maskrey, asked Mr Justice Tugendhat to approve the settlement of her lawsuit against the West Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust.
Her lawyers alleged medics were to blame in failing to diagnose and treat bacterial meningitis before it was too late to avert Lauren's brain injuries.
The NHS Trust's QC, David Evans, was in court yesterday as the settlement on the issue of liability was announced. He issued a public apology on the Trust's behalf. He said: “We are sorry that Lauren didn’t receive the treatment she was entitled to expect. We are glad to have come to terms without the need for a trial.”
The settlement means that Lauren will be compensated on the basis of 95 per cent liability. The amount of her compensation has yet to be assessed, but the extent of her injuries means it is bound to run into several million pounds.
The judge approved the compromise, concluding: “I hope matters can now finally be resolved, and I wish the family well and express my sympathy for this tragedy.”
Ms Jarvis said later that Lauren had been left with long-term learning difficulties and dyspraxia “such that she is unlikely to ever earn her own living”.
She said: “Her mother brought the case so that Lauren will be able to receive the education, care, support, aids and equipment that she will need for the rest of her life, particularly when her family are no longer able to care for her.
“This is an excellent outcome for Lauren who has been lovingly cared for by her family. The case was complex, and it was not in Lauren’s interest to settle earlier as her disabilities have evolved over time.”
The final compensation pay-out would be “high”, the solicitor concluded.