Great Ormond Street Hospital learns lessons from mistakes

31 January 2014

It has been reported this week that the High Court has approved a multi-million pound settlement for a little girl who has suffered catastrophic brain injury as a result of glue being accidentally injected into her brain during treatment for a rare condition. Whilst this is a shocking mistake which has caused devastating consequences for a young girl, it is a positive example of a defendant Trust engaging with a family through the legal process to learn from its mistakes and taking an open and transparent approach to dealing with accidents.

Maisha Najeeb suffered from a rare condition, which meant that the arteries and veins in her brain could become tangled and bleed, but at the time of the accident in 2010 she was an otherwise healthy ten year old girl. Maisha had received successful embolisation treatment for the condition on previous occasions at Great Ormond Street Hospital, which involved applying a glue to block off the affected vessels and injecting a harmless dye to track the flow of blood around the brain.

However in June 2010 when Maisha attended the Hospital for treatment there was no system in place to distinguish between the syringes of glue and dye and they were mixed up. Glue was accidentally injected into Maisha’s brain instead of the dye, causing catastrophic and permanent brain damage.

Maisha, now 13, requires assistance with all aspects of daily life and has been left wheelchair-bound and entirely dependent on others for her care. She will require care for the rest of her life but the experts could not agree whether she would live into her twenties or her sixties.

A High Court judge has approved the settlement against the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust, which awards Maisha a lump sum of £2.8 million, plus £383,000 per year until Maisha is aged 19, then increasing to £423,000 per year for the rest of her life.

Mixing up the glue and dye was a fundamental mistake, acknowledged by the Trust in admitting liability for Maisha’s injuries and apologising unreservedly to Maisha and her family. Sadly, the accident has had devastating consequences for Maisha and is made all the more tragic by the fact that the mistake was entirely avoidable.

However, it is encouraging to see that the Trust and the family were able engage open-heartedly and with transparency, and that lessons have been learned and systems put in place so that this error should never happen again. Both the Hospital and the family should be congratulated for this.

By identifying failings and tackling the issue full on, the parties have been able to reach a substantial settlement which will ensure that Maisha’s care needs can be met to provide her with the best possible quality of life and future. The annual payments for life (known as ‘periodic payments’) are a sensible way to ensure that funds will continue to be available to meet Maisha’s needs for as long as she lives, which is all the more important when there is a divergence of views on life expectancy.

We hope that more Trusts will adopt a similar approach where mistakes have been made and patients have been injured; being open and honest with patients and swiftly acknowledging mistakes and learning from them, can only lead to improvements in care for patients and avoid accidents like the one that Maisha has suffered.

Our Healthcare Standards practice aims to promote accountability, rather than blame, in the NHS. If you are concerned about the care you, or someone you care about has received please contact us on 020 7814 1200.

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