Lawyers supporting victims of the NHS Lothian paediatric audiology service scandal have warned that the number of children affected could be far greater than those identified in the independent report.
An audit of the health board’s audiology services found significant concerns in 155 of the 1007 patients treated between 2009 and 2018, which led to some children being identified with hearing loss years later than when first tested.
However, it has now emerged that thousands of children could be affected, as lawyers highlight the 1,007 patients analysed in the audit were just a “sample” of those tested during the 9-year period.
PGMBM supporting parents affected by NHS Lothian audiology failings
Grace Smith, Associate at global law firm PGMBM who are supporting parents affected by the scandal, said: “Whilst the audit highlighted those 155 children who were significantly affected by the failures at NHS Lothian, it is clear that the real number of families affected is much higher.
“The audit was performed on a sample of just over 1000 patients that were treated at NHS Lothian between 2009 and 2018. Within that 9-year period there were far more children through the doors of the Paediatric Audiology Service. The patient case load for this time frame was 22,900.
“The audit found concerns with 88% of the records within the sample. If that same percentage is applied to the full patient caseload across that time period, then the number of families affected by the report, delays and misdiagnosis could run into five figures.
“We know that there are children who were not included in the audit sample who have been affected by the failings highlighted in the audit report. ”
Parents dismissed by NHS Lothian Paediatric Audiology Service
PGMBM are already representing one parent whose child was not included in the audit sample but experienced significant and serious delays in diagnosis.
Grace added: “One of the families we are representing was seen by NHS Lothian’s Audiology Service several times from 2019 after their child failed a hearing test at birth.
“Despite repeatedly raising concerns about their child’s hearing, they were dismissed again and again and told that their child’s hearing was normal. However, at almost three years old, an external second opinion diagnosed their child with severe hearing loss. This significant delay in diagnoses happened at a key developmental stage for their child.
“There are clearly more people affected than were reviewed in the audit sample. We would appeal to anyone worried to get in touch with either NHS Lothian or ourselves and we can look at ways to support you.”
British Academy of Audiology report
The British Academy of Audiology report found systemic failings which led to babies and children being undiagnosed or experiencing significant delays in diagnosis and treatment.
It was found that there were a series of serious issues particularly within the under-five age group of the Paediatric Audiology service. The root causes of these failures were found to be a lack of scientific leadership, knowledge, reflection and enquiry in the presence of a lack of routine and robust quality assurance process.
The report found that staff were not following professional standards, training was almost exclusively in-house and insufficient, testing was not carried out correctly and there was no evidence of consistent management protocol or structure for children after results of tests. As such children who presented with similar test results and histories were being managed in different and contrasting ways. It also found that parents’ concerns were often dismissed.
NHS Lothian apologised following the report which was published last December.
Anyone who thinks they might be affected by the issues identified in the audit and would like more information can speak to PGMBM lawyers at www.nhslothianclaimlawyers.com.