It may be that nothing could have been done to change what happened to you or your baby. However, sometimes mistakes are made that result in babies developing group B Strep infection unnecessarily or those infections not being identified or treated promptly. Where errors do occur, it is often a system rather than an individual at fault – and making a complaint or taking legal action can sometimes help to ensure that such failures are addressed, and the same mistakes are not made again.
Making a complaint
If you are unhappy with the care you or your baby received, then you are entitled to make a formal complaint. Your hospital will have a complaints procedure, and the NHS website provides some useful information. You may find it helpful to talk to someone about the complaints procedure before making a complaint. Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) is available in most hospitals – they offer confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters. They provide a point of contact for patients, their families and their carers. You can also seek advice from third parties, for example, your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) at any point.
Address your letter of complaint directly to the Chief Executive of the Hospital or Trust/Board. To be most effective, in your letter:
- Include details of what happened and when plus the names and positions of those involved
- Explain why you are unhappy
- List the specific questions you would like answered
- Describe what you want to happen as a result of your complaint (eg, an apology, an explanation, a specific action, etc)
- Ask for a full investigation to be carried out
- Request a copy of any Untoward Serious Incident Report or Root Cause Analysis Report (this may be prepared by the maternity unit when a child is unexpectedly delivered with, or develops, GBS infection in the neonatal period)
- Ask for a response in accordance with the NHS Complaints Procedure
You should receive an acknowledgement within a week, with a timeline of when you can expect a response. If the response is delayed for any reason, you should be kept informed. See more at https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/about-the-nhs/how-to-complain-to-the-nhs/
Taking legal action
If the treatment you or your baby received was negligent, causing you or your baby either injury or harm, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.
Medical negligence claims are not a case of ‘punishing’ the health professionals and a successful claim won’t necessarily result in an apology, a change in medical policy or the health professional being disciplined.
However, if care fell below a reasonable standard and damage was caused, legal action may result in a financial settlement to compensate for that damage. This can help secure appropriate care and support for babies left with permanent life-long disability.
To pursue a legal claim successfully, two conditions need to be met:
- The medical treatment provided fell well below an acceptable and reasonable standard, and
- The harm or loss caused was as a direct result of that negligence or was materially contributed to by the negligence.
Choosing a law firm
Medical negligence proceedings are complex and stressful for parents. You will have to go over the detail of what happened many times. Legal action may be both expensive and time-consuming, taking many years to complete, although cases can be concluded quickly if the hospital accepts early on that there were mistakes.
It is vital to make sure when considering whether to go down the legal route that you seek advice from expert lawyers with experience in group B Strep cases. The most local firm may not be the best option – clinical negligence is complex and there are relatively few specialists with good experience of group B Strep claims.
There are relatively few specialists in the field. If you think you might have a case, or would like to see if you have the foundations for a case, we recommend you contact two or more of the experienced solicitors on the GBSS Legal Panel for an initial discussion.
At the very least you should contact a specialist clinical negligence practitioner who holds accreditation with the Law Society, AvMA or APIL.
Before contacting a law firm, however, get together as much information as you can. The lawyer may need this to make a realistic assessment as to whether you might have a case. They should be able to make a preliminary assessment of your case with no charge, to enable you to decide whether to proceed. They will also be able to advise you on the funding options available to you and your family to ensure that there is no financial risk to you.
GBSS Legal Panel
All the members of our Legal Panel hold accreditation with the Law Society, AvMA and/or APIL, as well as having successfully dealt with clinical negligence cases relating to group B Strep infection.
- We do not receive any referral fees if families go to them from information on our website or in our information materials.
- Any contact you have with any of these firms is entirely confidential between you and them. We are not involved in any way, unless invited to be by you.
We suggest you contact two or more of these experienced solicitors for an initial discussion before selecting a firm. Experience and a good track record are very important, as is finding someone you trust, and can develop a good working relationship with. Clinical negligence claims are hard emotionally and can take years.
contact: Nicola Wainwright
0203 002 5826
Nicola has acted for patients who have suffered as a result of medical negligence for over 20 years.
She specialises in claims for babies who sustained brain injury at birth due to maternity failures and children who suffered brain injuries caused by infections, particularly meningitis and sepsis and including group B Strep. She has also acted for many bereaved parents seeking answers, including at inquests.
Nicola is a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Accreditation Panel, AVMA and APIL and is ranked by Chambers & Partners legal directory as a ‘highly experienced lawyer who achieves great results’. In their feedback, clients described Nicola as ‘incredibly empathetic and understanding’ and having a ‘thorough and tenacious approach’.
contact: Kerstin Scheel
Kerstin is the lead Partner in RWK Goodman’s Birth Injury team, a specialist group of legal experts dedicated to seeking answers after a child has suffered an injury during birth.
Kerstin is recommended by Chambers and Partners legal directory, who note she is “very driven, very much all about the client and will really fight hard.”
Kerstin is a member of both the Law Society and AvMA accredited clinical negligence panels and is a senior Litigator with APIL. She is a Trustee of the PROMPT Maternity Foundation, which works to reduce harm to mothers and babies during childbirth.
contact: Mr Richard Kayser
0207 421 4709
Richard Kayser is a medical negligence Partner at Irwin Mitchell. He specialises in birth injury cases with particular expertise in injuries caused through group B strep infection. He has extensive expertise in dealing with both injuries to mum and baby.
Richard’s dedication to the families he works with is best described in client feedback received: “Richard Kayser visited us. I remember in the midst of all the pain and grief that we were feeling his voice being clear and extremely knowledgeable….Everything that he told us and every advice and guidance he has given has been true and correct. We cannot thank him enough for what he has done in getting us the best outcome and the help and support needed to support our granddaughter for the rest of her life”
Richard has actively supported the valuable work of Group B Strep Support alongside colleagues at Irwin Mitchell over many years. Since 2018 he has committed to regularly delivering talks to healthcare professionals focused on the prevention of group B strep infection. This is an area he is passionate about through his work with his clients.
Richard is an APIL accredited Senior Litigator and Clinical Negligence Specialist and is an accredited member of the AVMA Clinical Negligence Panel.
contact: Mr Simon Mansfield
Simon Mansfield is a Partner within Tozers medical negligence department and has more than a decade of experience of acting exclusively for claimants injured because of medical negligence. Simon deals with all areas of clinical negligence but focuses on birth injury claims, acting for families and children who have suffered injuries as a result of delays in the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis, meningitis and Group B strep and on other maximum severity clinical negligence cases. He also assists with inquest representation helping bereaved families in finding answers when they have lost a loved one.
Simon is on the Meningitis Research Foundation Legal Panel, a Law Society accredited clinical negligence specialist, and ranked expert in Clinical negligence with the Chambers & Partners legal directory stating: “Simon is an excellent solicitor. He is very compassionate and caring, and is brilliant at explaining difficult situations and concepts.”, “He goes the extra mile and makes you feel at ease and supported through such a difficult process.”, “He provides an excellent service and is efficient, professional and approachable.”
contact: Ms Emmalene Bushnell
020 7650 1262
Emmalene is a specialist clinical negligence lawyer at Leigh Day with experience of acting on behalf of families affected by group B Strep infection. A Member of Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) and the Association of Personal Injury Solicitors (APIL) where she is accredited as a Senior Litigator and the Secretary of their Clinical Negligence Special Interest Group.
One of Emmalene’s clients who sadly lost her baby to group B Strep infection said, “Leigh Day have proven to us that they are not just a law firm, they are a law firm that cares about making a difference. They support us, and other parents like us, in gaining answers and justice.”
Slater and Gordon
contact: Laura Preston
0330 995 5513
Laura is passionate about helping people who have been injured following medical treatment. She has been described as “fearless” in her pursuit of the best possible outcome for her clients and is a recommended Lawyer in the Legal 500. She is a Principal Lawyer (Partner) and Team Leader in Slater and Gordon’s medical negligence department in London.
Laura specialises in cases involving all aspects of medical negligence but has a particular focus on birth injury claims (for both mother and baby) and several of her cases have arisen from Group B Strep. She also has extensive experience representing bereaved families at inquest. One client said: “She was very conscientious and honest. Thanks to Laura’s commitment and professional approach everything ended well for my little son and me.”
She is an accredited APIL Senior Litigator and a contributing editor of the APIL: Clinical Negligence Guide 3rd Edition.
If you would like further information, please contact us or one of our preferred legal providers. And, if you haven’t already, please read our leaflet “After your baby’s group B Strep infection“ which provides guidance if your baby has been affected by group B Strep infection.