High Court rules Barking’s hospital trust liable for child’s brain damage

General view of the High Court on the Strand, London.

General view of the High Court on the Strand, London. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The family of a child who was brain damaged after hospital staff did not explain the importance of feeding a newborn have won their High Court claim against Barking’s hospital trust.

Nilujan Rajatheepan was in good condition when he was delivered by caesarean section at King George Hospital in Goodmayes, Essex in July 2009.

His parents are Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka and his mother, Sinthiya, was 21 when Nilujan was born and spoke very little English.

A community midwife visited the family at home after the birth to find Nilujan pale and lethargic, having gone unfed for more than 15 hours.

Catastrophic brain injuries were caused by his low blood sugar.

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Now eight-year-old, Nilujan has cerebral palsy with severely impaired physical and cognitive function.

On Friday (April 13) in London, Judge McKenna ruled that Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Foundation Trust was liable.

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He said the sad reality was that Mrs Rajatheepan did not get any instruction on how to feed properly or what to do if feeding was unsuccessful.

No one had ever given her a clear explanation of the importance of feeding or how to respond if she had concerns.

Because of the language barrier, she could not communicate her concerns to hospital staff.

And when communicated by a friend, they were not acted upon.

If the baby - who had been crying continuously - had been reviewed when Mrs Rajatheepan was collected from the hospital the difficulties with feeding would have become apparent and his injuries would have been avoided, said the judge.

The parents were repeatedly given false reassurance that it was perfectly normal for newborn babies to cry without investigating the concerns raised, so it was not surprising they did not later contact the hospital.

Damages will be assessed at a later date if not agreed.

Wendy Matthews OBE, Director of Midwifery at BHRUT Trust commented on the verdict.

She said: “We would like to say sorry again to Nilujan and the Rajatheepan family and express our sincere sympathies to them.

“We are considering the judgment and the implications of the judge’s ruling in this case.

“Although we have made huge improvements since this incident occurred in 2009, we will take the opportunity to review it closely and see if there are any more lessons about our post-natal care that we can learn.”

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