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Compensation for child who suffered permanent kidney damage, after doctors failed to diagnose a serious urinary tract infection

A five-figure settlement has been achieved for a family whose child suffered serious kidney damage following a delay in diagnosing a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Posted on 27 June 2024

A settlement of £35,000 has been approved by a judge, after the girl, who we have called Isabella, suffered serious kidney damage due to a delay in treating UTI when she was seven months old. 

In May 2007, Isabella suddenly fell ill with a fever and was coughing, sneezing and reluctant to feed. Her mother took her to A&E at Watford General Hospital on 18 May and to an out –of-hours GP practice on 21 May and 22 May, each time being reassured that Isabella’s condition was nothing to worry about.  
By 24 May, Isabella’s condition had worsened, and she had developed a rash and red spots on her scalp. Paula took her to A&E at Watford General Hospital for a second time, when she was noted to have a temperature of 38 degrees, an increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Again, no further investigations were carried out, such as a urine test, and Isabella was discharged with a diagnosis of a viral respiratory infection. 
The following day, Isabella deteriorated further. She was not feeding, her hands and feet were cold, and she was highly irritable. At a third visit to A&E that evening, a urine sample was finally taken, and she was found to have a UTI and a raised CRP (C-reactive protein which can indicate inflammation from infection) level of 436, indicating a serious systemic infection. Further investigations revealed Isabella had meningitis and sepsis and she remained in hospital for over two weeks, receiving life-saving antibiotic treatment.  
Whilst Isabella made a good recovery from the meningitis and sepsis, by the time of the diagnosis, the UTI had spread to her kidneys and, according to the medical experts instructed in the case on Isabella’s behalf, it caused permanent damage to one kidney. 
Later scans revealed that Isabella had a small, scarred right kidney, which now contributes less than 20 per cent of Isabella’s overall kidney function. This means that Isabella is heavily reliant on her left kidney and if anything were to happen to the left kidney in the future, it would have serious consequences for Isabella’s life.  
The family instructed Leigh Day solicitors Brendan Hope and Rebecca Ridgeon to investigate a claim on Isabella’s behalf. West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust admitted that urine samples should have been taken when Isabella attended A&E on 18 May and 24 May. The Trust also accepted that, if a urine test had been carried out on 24 May, it would have revealed an infection and Isabella would have been admitted to hospital and given antibiotics a day earlier than she had. Isabella would have then avoided developing meningitis and her illness would have been less severe, although it was disputed that she would have had better kidney function.  
The Trust denied liability. Following negotiations that considered the delay in Isabella’s treatment of her infection, the impact on the severity of her illness, and loss of function in her kidney, the claim was settled for £35,000. 
Isabella’s mother said: 
“I am really pleased that, after a number of years, West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has finally accepted responsibility for the errors in Isabella’s treatment, and that Isabella has received financial compensation for the lasting damage to her kidney, which will help her in her future life.”  
Medical negligence solicitor Rebecca Ridgeon said: 
“Paula knew that her daughter was not herself when she fell ill back in May 2007, which is why, despite the repeated reassurances from health professionals, she kept returning to the GP and to hospital. It is so fortunate that she did take Isabella back to A&E on 25 May, but by then it was too late to save her right kidney. I know it was very important to Paula that the hospital accepted that they should have listened to her, particularly on 24 May 2007, and done more to investigate what she knew all along – that something was seriously wrong with her daughter. After a long litigation process, I am pleased that a settlement has finally been reached in recognition of the permanent impact that this error had on Isabella’s life.”   

Rebecca Ridgeon (1)
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Rebecca Ridgeon

Rebecca Ridgeon is an associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

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