FB v Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust [2017] EWCA Civ 334 (12 May 2017)

Appeal against order A’s claim in negligence against R , the second defendant hospital to the claim in negligence. There is no appeal against the dismissal of the claim against the first defendant, a GP in a local out-of-hours service. (paragraph 1)

FB was born on 14 August 2002. She became unwell on 18 September 2003. On the evening of 29 September she was admitted to the hospital. She was very ill. On 1 October 2003 she was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital where a diagnosis was made of pneumococcal meningitis and multiple brain infarcts. FB recovered but she had sustained permanent damage to her brain… (paragraph 3)

This appeal arises out of the judge’s findings and conclusions about the conduct of the SHO who saw FB in A&E early in the morning of 29 September 2003. (paragraph 5)

It was the A’s case that D was negligent in:
i) failing to take an adequate history and
ii) failing to conduct an adequate examination… (paragraph 6)

the history taking was not carried out to the standard to be expected of a competent SHO is inevitable. (paragraph 48)

D was in breach of duty and negligence is established. (paragraph 49)

the court considered standard of are of hospital doctors in the context of their function and grade.

Whether doctors are performing their normal role or ‘acting up’, they are judged by reference to the post which they are fulfilling at the material time. The health authority or health trust is liable if the doctor whom it puts into a particular position does not possess (and therefore does not exercise) the requisite degree of skill for the task in hand… (paragraph 59)

Thus in professional negligence, as in the general law of negligence, the standard of care which the law requires is an imperfect compromise. It achieves a balance between the interests of society and fairness to the individual practitioner. (paragraph 60)