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Judge approves £5.6m compensation package for disabled teenager

Cathy Gordon,Press Association
Monday 01 February 2010 14:41 GMT

A High Court judge described being "humbled" today by the devoted care given by the family of a girl brain-damaged at birth as she gave her backing to a £5.6 million compensation package.

Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, sitting in London, gave her approval to the financial settlement of a medical negligence claim by 13-year-old Alice Joyce, who was born in March 1996 at Wycombe General Hospital, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

Her mother and father, Chris and Carolyn, were in court to hear the judge express her admiration and say: "No one can read the papers in this case without being struck by the care that has been provided to Alice by her parents."

The judge said they had shown sheer devotion and told them she was "simply humbled" over what each of them had done for their daughter.

Neil Block QC, for South Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which admitted liability and publicly apologised to the family, said it was a "matter of profound regret" that Alice "did not receive the standard of care that she and her family were entitled to".

He added: "Money will never replace what Alice and her family have lost, but we do hope that now one huge worry will have been removed from their shoulders in future."

The award comprises a lump sum of £2,250,000 plus annual payments of £95,000 to age 16 and £185,000 from age 16 for life.

An interim payment of £2 million was made by the trust in 2008 which enabled the family to buy a new home in Buckinghamshire which the court heard had changed their lives.

Alice, who suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, has severe physical problems and needs 24-hour care.

She is unable to do anything for herself and also has severely delayed mental development and learning difficulties.

Alice gets pleasure and benefit from hydrotherapy and part of the damages award is being used to build a hydrotherapy pool at her home.

Her father said after the hearing: "After a tough nine-year battle, this award will ensure Alice is looked after for the rest of her life and we are reassured about her future care when we are no longer around.

"Although it sounds like a large sum of money, it is needed to fund Alice's round-the-clock care and ensure she gets as much out of life as her disabilities allow.

"Despite the many challenges we face in caring for her, Alice is a happy, sociable little girl who gives us so much pleasure.

"It is so sad she will never have a normal life and do all the things we take for granted.

"The NHS continues to pay out considerable sums in these cases. Isn't it time lessons were learnt so other people would not have to go through this devastating heartache?"

Helen Niebuhr, of Oxford-based medical negligence solicitors, Darbys, said: "Alice is a beautiful and charming girl who is very aware of her surroundings and close to her devoted parents and older sister.

"However, her life has been restricted to complete dependency on others by the brain damage she has suffered.

"The amount of money she has received seems a huge amount but it is required to pay for the care and equipment Alice will need for the rest of her life.

"Her family would prefer that she had never needed to make this claim and was a normal 13-year-old girl looking forward to her future as she should have been.

"The award will provide security for her for the rest of her life."

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