Each year, World Meningitis Day provides an opportunity for meningitis charities and research foundations to draw attention to their calls for increased awareness and education about meningitis.

In March 2013, the Meningitis Trust and Meningitis UK announced their intention to merge into one charity. They stated that 'the merged charity will still deliver the priorities of the Meningitis Trust and Meningitis UK – preventative research and lifelong support – whilst strengthening the impact they have in life-saving education and awareness work'.

The UK is highlighted as one of the top three meningitis hotspots in Europe and there is an incorrect general public view that some vaccinations for meningitis protect children against all forms of meningitis. With a view to increasing awareness, and taking into account the increasing use of mobile phone and tablet apps, the Meningitis Trust has produced an app specifically to make the public aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis in an easily accessible way.

The two charities continue to produce guidance for health professionals and the public via their websites, literature and media campaigns. It is hoped that by ‘joining forces’ their profile will rise and the messages they communicate will be more widely received.

Says Philippa Luscombe, clinical negligence partner: “At Penningtons we deal with a number of cases of delayed diagnosis of meningitis and see first hand how prompt diagnosis and treatment is crucial and how devastating the effects can be if it is not caught quickly. We regularly see cases where children are taken into hospital by concerned parents (often with guidance from NHS Direct) but are sent away with a vague diagnosis of an ‘infection’ or ‘virus’. By the time their condition has deteriorated and they return to hospital, it can be too late. We have a number of cases of individuals who have sustained severe brain damage from a delay in diagnosis and several cases where treatment has been started too late to save the individual concerned.

“The more public awareness there is about this condition and what to look out for, the better and we hope that, over time, the number of cases where serious damage is caused by a delay in treatment will decrease. Parents in particular must feel confident that they know where to seek advice and what to look out for and that their concerns will be taken seriously.”