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Mother of Disabled Boy Calls for Lessons to Be Learned in Maternity Care

The mother of a young boy who suffered brain damage as a result of an infection which left him gravely ill within hours of his birth at a Shrewsbury hospital has called for lessons to be learned from maternity care failings.

Adam Cheshire, now aged 11, spent nearly a month in intensive care after being diagnosed with Group B Strep (GBS) and meningitis following his birth at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in March 2011.

Adam has autism, hearing and visual impairments, severe learning difficulties and behavioural problems, and is likely to need care for the rest of his life.

Through his mother, Reverend Charlotte Cheshire, 45, of Newport, Shropshire, he sued the scandal-hit Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, alleging that a delay in testing and then treating him for the bacterial infection resulted in the damage he suffered.

The trust, which was last year found by independent maternity expert, Donna Ockenden, to have presided over catastrophic failings over 20 years, agreed to settle the case on the basis of 80% liability, and to give the Cheshire family an interim payment.

A final figure for the settlement is yet to be agreed, but is likely to be several million pounds to provide the specialist and therapy Adam will need for the rest of his life.

The settlement was approved at the High Court on Monday by Mrs Justice Thornton.

Care Failings

Following the approval hearing, Rev Cheshire, a Church of England priest, said: "While Adam is adorable and I'm so thankful to have him in my life, it's difficult not to think how things could have turned out much differently for him if he'd received the care he should have.

"Adam will never live an independent life and will need lifelong care.

"While I'm devoted to him, I'm now raising a severely disabled son, which is extremely challenging and has changed the path of both our lives forever.

"Nothing will ever make up for what he's gone through but today means we can try and start looking to the future as a family as we have the answers we deserve and the security of knowing Adam's needs will be taken care of.

"My heart goes out to all the other families who have been affected by maternity issues, not only at Shrewsbury and Telford but elsewhere.

"There continues to be too many stories of how families are left to pick up the pieces following care failings so it's vital that families continue to speak out.

"What's happened can never be forgotten and improvements in care need to continue to be made, not just at Shrewsbury and Telford but elsewhere.

"I think it's also vital that steps are taken to ensure that GBS testing is undertaken a lot earlier than it was in our case."

Sara Burns, of law firm, Irwin Mitchell, who acted in Adam's case, said: "We believe that Adam's care was typical of many issues families have raised.

"Serial observations were missed, signs that should have been acted upon weren't and serious illnesses were diagnosed too late.

"While nothing can ever make up for what happened to Adam, we're pleased to have secured this liability settlement which has been approved by the High Court – which means Adam will receive the lifetime care and support he requires because of his complex needs."

Group B Strep Testing

Ms Burns said that, while GBS can make babies very poorly, most will recover with prompt treatment and that a simple test can determine whether an expectant mother is a carrier of the bacteria and treat her with antibiotics during labour accordingly.

She added: "Everything possible must be done to prevent this infection in babies."

Jane Plumb, chief executive of the charity Group B Strep Support, who attended court with Rev Cheshire on Monday, said: "The UK falls behind so many countries by not offering GBS testing to pregnant women and people and too often not even telling them about GBS.

"This needs to change.

"Families deserve better."

The Cheshire family's care was also examined as part of the Ockenden review into maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals, which was published last March following a 5-year investigation.

It found that 201 babies and nine mothers could, or would have, survived if they had received better care.

The article contains information from PA Media.