A 13-year-old boy stricken by profound disabilities blamed on a medical mishap at Harefield Hospital when he was just a few days old today (Wednesday) won a £7.3million compensation payout from the NHS.
Robbie Crane, of Hemel Hempstead, Herts, suffered brain damage, resulting in cerebral palsy, learning difficulties, behavioural problems and epilepsy, following surgery to treat congenital heart problems at the hospital in Hill End Road, Harefield, in October 1999.
Robbie’s injuries mean he will never lead an independent life or earn his own living. He has no sense of danger and needs intensive supervision from his devoted parents, Barrie and Catherine, whose 'marvellous' care was praised on all sides.
Robbie was born with a congenital heart defect - the major arteries into his heart were the wrong way round - which required urgent corrective surgery at the hospital on October 4, 1999.
He was referred after his unusual blue skin tone was noticed by his parents when he was a few days old.
The complicated 'switch' surgery was successful, the court heard, but his lawyers claim Robbie suffered brain damage in a 15-hour period after the operation because a ventilator keeping him alive had not been adjusted properly.
Through his parents, Robbie sued the hospital’s managers - the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospital NHS Trust - which denied liability for his injuries but today agreed to a final settlement of his case.
Under the deal, Robbie will receive a substantial lump sum as well as annual, index-linked and tax-free payments to cover the enormous costs of his care for as long as he lives. The total compensation package is valued at £7.3 million.
Whilst emphasising that there had been no admission of liability by the NHS Trust, its counsel, Neil Block QC, acknowledged that 'things could have been done differently and better'.
Describing the years of unstinting care given by Mr and Mrs Crane to their son as 'humbling', the QC added: "Robbie has clearly had a fantastic start in life notwithstanding his disabilities".
Although no amount of money could turn the clock back or remedy Robbie's disabilities, the Trust hoped that family would be comforted by the financial stability the settlement will bring.
Mr and Mrs Crane were in court to hear Mr Justice Tugendhat approve the settlement, saying: "It only remains for me to pay tribute to the parents for the devotion they have given Robbie and to wish them all well".
Catherine and Barrie Crane said after the hearing: "This brings to an end a long and challenging legal process but the daily care that Robbie requires will continue for the rest of his life.
"The settlement means that Robbie will now get everything he needs and our family can now start to plan for the future with confidence.
"We were repeateadly told that there was no chance of securing compensation but our legal team urged us on and so it is a great relief to finally have it decided."
The family's solicitor, Sue Jarvis, said outside court: "Robbie's parents have provided loving and devoted care throughout his life and they are pleased that Robbie's care will continue even when they are no longer able to look after him.
"This was one of the most complex cases that I have dealt with during 25 years of handling cerebral palsy claims.
"Experts were originally of the view that the claim was unlikely to succeed but persistence and a team approach paid off in the end and we are proud to have secured a fitting settlement."