Large Medical Malpractice Case Against NHS Lothian Expected As Deaf Children Failed
Treating a baby for hearing loss before the age of six months improves their speech and language compared to children where treatment is delayed. This is worrying news for the children with hearing loss treated at Lothian hospital over the past nine years. NHS Lothian is facing one of biggest malpractice lawsuits in Scottish history after 155 children with a hearing impairment were failed by the hospital.
In England, the average age a child is diagnosed as being deaf is just 109 days of age. In comparison, the average age of diagnosis at NHS Lothian is four and a half years old. The British Academy of Audiology (BAA) has been involved in assessing NHS Lothian’s paediatric audiology department since May 2021. Of the 155 cases identified, five children did not receive a cochlear implant due to the length of time it took the hospital to diagnose them with hearing loss. Two children’s hearing was incorrectly described as ‘normal’ and a further five children had late surgery due to the hospital not diagnosing them in a timely manner. The BAA also concluded that 49 of the children experienced “significant delay” in their deafness being identified and treated.
The cause of hearing loss
The children failed by NHS Lothian will have hearing loss for a number of reasons. Around one in two cases are caused by genetics. One in four cases are due to maternal issues, complications after birth, or a head injury. It is not known how the children seen by NHS Lothian developed hearing loss. However, common birth-related causes include cerebral palsy and asphyxia. Asphyxia happens when there is a lack of oxygen during the labour and delivery process. It typically damages the inner ear canal and causes sensorineural hearing loss. A brain injury usually occurs too. A brain injury attorney will work with the baby’s family to assess their claim. They’ll advise whether compensation can be claimed as a result of negligence or malpractice and will also take into consideration secondary complaints, including hearing loss.
It has been reported that many of the children’s’ families have already sought legal advice and a large medical malpractice case against NHS Lothian is expected to be launched imminently. BAA’s review of NHS Lothian found that staff members failed to follow standard procedure when assessing children’s hearing. The medical director at NHS Lothian Tracey Gillies has apologised to all the people they have let down. Comprehensive training is now being given to audiology staff to ensure that mistakes don’t happen again. She also acknowledged that some of the children affected will have their speech and language impacted due to their failings. One recent study found that children given a cochlear implant before nine months of age had more natural and age-appropriate speech than children who received an implant after this age. This shows the importance of early intervention and how badly NHS Lothian’s young patients have been let down.
Serious medical malpractice has been going on for too long in NHS Lothian’s paediatric audiology department. Many of these children will feel the impact of these failures all their lives, so more must be done to help them now.