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Posted on 15th May 2017

Girl left brain damaged because doctor was "working all night"

A young Doctor at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow had failed to correctly take the medical history of the girl because he was tired from working all night.

In 2003 the girl’s mum rushed her to hospital by ambulance when she saw her daughter’s eyes rolling into her head. Upon arrival at the A&E department, the doctor on duty did not ask why the child had been sent to hospital.

After examination of the child who appeared to be alert and well, was diagnosed with a minor infection although the ambulance crew had previously recorded that the girl’s eyes were rolling. The child was discharged from hospital with a suspected Uper Respiratory Tract Infection. 

Later that day the child was taken back to hospital because her condition had deteriorated and she was referred to a paediatrician. It was found the girl had meningitis.

The delay in giving the child the necessary treatment for meningitis was found to have caused the catastrophic brain injury. Had she been given antibiotics when she first attended A&E, the likelihood was that the child would have escaped injury.

The family of the girl had brought legal action back in 2015 but it was rejected by a judge. The family appealed and Lady Justice Thirlwall, Lord Justice Jackson and Mrs Justice King reversed the decision and ruled the trust was liable, allowing the family to be awarded compensation.


In March 17 there were over 2 million attendances at A&E, most of which happened without any issues. Budgetary cuts to the NHS mean that hospitals are increasingly overstretched.

Any delay in diagnosing meningitis or starting treatment can have a significant effect on the outcome for the patient as this case shows.

A&E departments should be able to correctly diagnose medical conditions such as this but we continue to see enquiries for delayed treatment and misdiagnosis of injuries.

A common theme for Negligence Claimline is undiagnosed fractures where the radiographer misinterprets x-rays.

If you think you have had an illness which was misdiagnosed causing you further injury or if you have had a fracture which was not diagnosed at the first stage, contact us on 0330 355 9210 or for a free claim assessment.