£8.5m payout for boy whose brain was damaged in 'catalogue of errors'


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The Independent Online

A seven-year-old boy who suffered catastrophic brain damage after a "catalogue of errors" at his birth is to receive a compensation package worth £8.5 million.

Alfie Buck's lawyers told the High Court that staff at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, failed to monitor him sufficiently during his mother's labour in March 2006 or deliver him by emergency caesarean.

They claimed that if he had been delivered just 20 minutes earlier, it was highly likely he would have been born without any brain damage at all.

Alfie, whose intelligence was largely spared, now has cerebral palsy and suffers painful spasms. He is completely reliant on a wheelchair, communicates using technology and needs 24-hour support.

Despite his problems, Alfie has a great sense of humour and is doted on by his siblings, Jessica, 13, and Louis, 10, said mother Samantha, of Horsham, West Sussex.

"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 to be bitter or angry. It just felt very unfair as Alfie didn't deserve it."

Mrs Buck, and her husband Andrew, an estate manager, were at London's High Court with Alfie to hear Mr Justice Hickinbottom approve the award against Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which admitted liability.

A lump sum of £3.85 million plus lifelong periodical payments will fund a new wheelchair-accessible home for the family with space for live in carers and pay for physiotherapy, transport, education, specialist equipment and support.

The family's solicitor, Jane Weakley, of law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the case was "tragically a catalogue of errors".

The Trust's counsel, Paul Rees QC, echoed an apology sent to the Bucks in 2011 by its chief executive, who told them that lessons had been learned from the failures in Alfie's care.

Giving the family an unreserved public apology, Mr Rees said: "We all know that nothing I can say will turn back the clock but they are entitled to hear that."

He also paid tribute, not only to Alfie's spirit, but to the commitment, insight and devotion of his parents, brother and sister, and the sacrifices they had made.

The judge added: "It frankly never ceases to amaze me - the care and love parents and carers show - but this is another case in which they are very clearly and markedly illustrated."