Refugee Family Set to Win Millions from NHS for Not Using Foreign Language to Explain Importance of Feeding Newborn

Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

A refugee family is set for a multi-million-pound NHS payout because a mother spoke no English and hospital staff did not explain to her how to care for her newborn in her native language.

The child of the Rajatheepan family, originally from Sri Lanka, has been left with severe brain damage because midwives did not explain the importance of feeding the newborn regularly, a judge has ruled.

The boy, now eight, was born in a healthy condition at King George Hospital in Goodmayes, Essex, in July 2009, but was left limp and sick after not being fed for 15 hours.

Judge Martin McKenna said medics failed to overcome the language barrier, which directly resulted in the baby suffering the catastrophic injuries.

The parents, he claimed, had been “effectively ignored” when medics visited the family at home after the birth, according to the Daily Mail.

“The overwhelming weight of the evidence is that Mrs Rajatheepan had very little ability with the English language,” he said.

“She was certainly unable to understand anything but the simplest of instructions and only then when accompanied with appropriate hand gestures.”

He added: ‘The reality is that no one ever in fact gave Mrs Rajatheepan a clear and understandable explanation of the importance of feeding.

‘Because of the language barrier, she had been unable to communicate her concerns to hospital staff.’

“In the circumstances, I would enter judgement in favour of the claimant with damages to be assessed,” the judge concluded.

However, midwives, who said they were used to dealing with mothers who did not have English as their first language, insisted that they had properly instructed Mrs. Rajatheepan on how to feed her son.

The compensation award has yet to be fully assessed, but it is likely to be a multi-million-pound payout due to the severity of the boy’s disabilities.

Wendy Matthews OBE, Director of Midwifery, Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust commented: “We would like to say sorry again to Nilujan and the Rajatheepan family and express our sincere sympathies to them.

“We are considering the judgement and the implications of the judge’s ruling in this case.

“Although we have made huge improvements since this incident occurred in 2009, we will take the opportunity to review it closely and see if there are any more lessons about our post-natal care that we can learn.”


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