An analysis of successful litigation claims in childhood fatalities in England

Eur J Pediatr. 2012 Nov;171(11):1657-60. doi: 10.1007/s00431-012-1793-6. Epub 2012 Jul 21.


This study aimed to analyse the number, nature and costs of successful litigation claims against the National Health Service in England involving fatalities in children. A record of claims involving fatalities in children from 1 April 2004 to 31 March 2011 was obtained from the National Health Service Litigation Authority. The closed cases where compensation had been paid to the claimant were analysed. One hundred thirty out of a total of 234 closed cases (56 %) resulted in payment of compensation. The commonest causes of a fatality were delayed/failed diagnosis (58), delayed/failed treatment (19), complications related to procedures/operations (17), poor overall quality of care (7), medication errors (6), inappropriate medical advice leading to delayed presentation (6) and communication errors (5). The commonest diagnoses involved were sepsis (17), meningitis (11), cardiac defects (8), gastrointestinal illness (8), intracranial bleed (4), meningococcal septicaemia (3) and malignancy (3). The total cost of litigation was £8,143,342 with cost per case ranging from £1607 to £790,555 with a mean of £62,641. The death of a child is a tragedy. When an error has occurred, this causes further suffering to the family and to the health care professionals involved.

Conclusion: This data suggest areas where training could be improved, and by learning from such errors we can diminish such occurrences in the future and improve patient safety.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Mortality*
  • Compensation and Redress / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • England
  • Humans
  • Malpractice / economics
  • Malpractice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Malpractice / statistics & numerical data
  • Medical Errors / economics
  • Medical Errors / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Medical Errors / mortality
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Safety
  • State Medicine / economics
  • State Medicine / legislation & jurisprudence*