A brain-damaged boy has been awarded £15 million after an out-of-hours GP missed his life-threatening meningitis – and sent him home with CALPOL.
Parents of Jacob Stratton, now aged nine, were told their baby boy had just 30 minutes to live when he finally received treatment and had to spend four days on life support.
David and Mandy Stratton, from Kent, rung an out-of-hours clinic in 2007 when their six-week-old baby boy fell ill.
Doctors failed to diagnose potentially fatal meningitis, so after a lengthy legal battle, Jacob was awarded £15 million compensation by the High Court – one of the highest ever negligence awards involving out-of-hours GPs.
Jacob was left with cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, needing round-the-clock care for life, as his parents were told to just give their son a dose of Calpol – infant medicine containing paracetamol.
Ignoring advice from the out-of-hour clinic to keep their baby at home, David and Mandy took Jacob to an out-of-hours walk-in centre near their home the next day, but this time he was sent home, without his temperature being taken.
The following day, Jacob was taken to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, where he was finally diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis – a form of bacterial meningitis.
Dad David said: “We were told when he was admitted that he had 30 minutes to live. It was terrifying.”
Six-week-old Jacob was then transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, where he spent four days fighting for his life in intensive care.
David said: “We were told they were going to take him off the life support machine, but they did not know what capability he had.
“If he had lost his reflux – the ability to cough and clear his throat – then he would die.”
The couple were told their son had extensive brain damage, so Jacob, who has cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, now needs round the clock care, and is confined to a wheelchair.
The only way he can communicate with his parents is by learning to use an “eye gaze” computer and attends a special needs school.
David said: “We trusted the doctors – we spoke to two different GPs.
“This settlement is not compensation for Jacob. It is enablement, to allow him to live as well as he can.”
Nick Fairweather, the medical negligence solicitor who represented the Strattons, described the tragedy as a “crass error” resulting from a “basic failure to follow simple procedures”.
He said: “If a small amount of the sums that have to be paid in damages were redirected to frontline services, it would save huge sums, improve healthcare immeasurably and avoid the wholly unnecessary suffering that is caused to patients such as Jacob and their families.”
The £15 million sum will be released periodically during Jacob’s life and will be held and administered by a court-appointed official.