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Childhood Hearing Loss Failures in the Lothian Paediatric Audiology Service

Thompsons Solicitors Scotland
Thompsons Solicitors Scotland

An independent investigation has uncovered "significant failures" by NHS Lothian which resulted in delayed diagnoses of deafness in hundreds of children over a nine-year period.

The delays are likely to have had "long-term consequences" for affected children.   

Why is a delayed diagnosis of childhood hearing loss so damaging?

“Children learn and socialise through hearing. Early identification and management of a hearing loss present at birth or acquired later is essential, both for the acquisition of spoken language and cognitive development of the child. It is now widely accepted and internationally recognised that delays to identification/management have significant detrimental effects on children’s lives in terms of speech and language development, literacy, mental health, educational performance, employment and social-economic performance. Children need early identification and effective management together with quality Paediatric Audiology services to attain their full potential.” *

*  (From the Summary Report by the British Academy of Audiology into the significant failures of the paediatric audiology services at Lothian Health Board)

Delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis of hearing loss, particularly in early years, can have a profound and sometimes irreversible impact on a child’s life and life prospects.  Any child who suffers because of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis should seek expert legal advice.

What happened?

Investigations by the British Academy of Audiology have found a number of serious failures within the Paediatric Audiology Service provided by Lothian Health Board between 2009 and 2021.

These failures resulted in:

  • Numerous children experiencing significant and unacceptable delays in diagnosis.
  • Numerous children being misdiagnosed.

It is internationally recognised that delays to identify and manage hearing loss can cause significant developmental difficulties which will have a profound impact on a child’s life and life prospects.

Is there an entitlement to compensation?

Yes, if negligence can be established.

The British Academy of Audiology reports are extremely helpful and so powerful that NHS Lothian may accept liability to pay compensation to the children affected by the Lothian paediatric audiology scandal, but this is by no means certain.

What is required to prove negligence and succeed in a case?

It is necessary to establish on the balance of probabilities:

  • The treatment provided was sufficiently poor so as to meet the legal test for medical negligence.
  • The treatment provided resulted in material harm to the child.

Multiple expert reports will be required to prove the case as well as detailed reviews of medical records.

How much will the childhood hearing loss compensation be?

Levels will vary but are likely to be significant. The purpose of compensation is to provide ‘restitution’; in other words, to provide a sum of money that will put the child back into the position that they would have been in if the negligence had not occurred.

The childhood hearing loss compensation process will provide the means to assess and provide the cost of highly specialised ‘catch up’ support that will provide the child with the best opportunities in life including speech and language therapy and access to Teachers of the Deaf. If appropriate, compensation will look at lost life opportunities, including loss of earnings, loss of employability and pension loss.

Are there any time limits?

Court proceedings must be raised within three years of the child reaching their 16th birthday.

Expert Legal Advice - Talk to Thompsons

Any family contacted because of the failures in the Lothian paediatric audiology service should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Our solicitors specialise in clinical negligence claims and also have a track record of pursuing claims in respect of mass medical malpractice.

Investigations will be complex and will require the input of multiple expert reports. You should seek legal advice to get the processing started as soon as possible. 

Talk to our expert solicitors today on 0800 0891 331 for free confidential legal advice.

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