Epilepsy errors ‘affected’ 1,500 children

Up to 1,500 children may have legitimate compensation claims following an epilepsy misdiagnosis scandal, their solicitor has claimed.

BBC News Online has learned that 93% of cases so far examined involved wrong treatments by the “undertrained” Dr Andrew Holton.

Campaigners working on the Leicestershire childrens’ behalf are demanding that such errors must never be allowed to happen again.

They have pledged to make sure a second public inquiry into the NHS “systems failure” is carried out properly.

NHS trust managers at Leicester Royal Infirmary have apologised for the actions of Dr Holton who has been suspended.

The Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health, said Dr Holton’s work went unchecked for 10 years.

On Friday, Jane Williams, the childrens’ solicitor, had the first of a series of meetings with the infirmary litigation team.

Ms Williams, of Freeth Cartwright solicitors, said it is hoped to establish an equitable system of compensation to avoid lengthy legal battles in the courts.

“We want to make sure those children affected by Dr Holton’s actions are seen as quickly as possible so that proper courses of treatment for them can be established,” she said.

“At the first meeting we made good progress, and another meeting is scheduled for Monday.”

Ms Williams said out of the 45 children whose cases have been fully reviewed so far, 43 have given cause for concern about the treatment they received.

“If this is a fair reflection of the number of cases out there, we are looking at least 1,500 children who have a clear compensation claim,” she added.

A three-stage process of dealing with the cases has already begun.

The first is to establish how many patients Dr Holton treated since he began practising in Leicester in 1990. Up to 1,800 have been identified so far.

More than 200 are now at the second stage, where a patient’s case notes are examined in detail to establish whether epilepsy was misdiagnosed, or wrong treatment given, or both.

“Once all the cases are established, independent neurologists will be brought in to make sure the correct treatment is given,” said Ms Williams.

‘Treatment delays’

“Of the 214 patients whose notes have been examined, 171 will be reviewed further.”

The Leicestershire Epilepsy Concern Parents and Carers’ Group are not, however, optimistic about an estimate by Ms Williams that it will take only another six months to review all cases.

Jane Hall, of the group, said: “It has got to be very optimistic to believe all these cases can be looked at in six months.

“And while it is important for these patients to get adequate compensation, just establishing the mistakes Dr Holton made will not be enough.

“What we don’t want to happen is that five years down the line we are taking our children to Leicester and we’re getting the same problems all over again.”

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.