UK Medical Negligence News

Claim for Negligent Heart Surgery Resolved after Surgeon Struck Off

A mother´s claim for negligent heart surgery has been resolved three years after her daughter died from brain damage sustained during the operation.

On September 24th 2003, Carrie Wright was just nine years of age when she underwent elective surgery at Leeds Royal Infirmary to repair a heart defect. During the operation Carrie was deliberately put into deep hypothermic circulatory arrest (DHCA) – a procedure that cools the body down so that work can be done on the heart without the patient suffering brain damage.

However, rather than limiting the period of DHCA to the maximum recommended forty-five minutes, Carrie´s surgeon – Dr Nihal Weerasena – kept her body in circulatory arrest for more than two hours, resulting in Carrie suffering severe brain damage. Due to her injury, Carrie was unable to walk or stand, had limited speech and was unable to live an independent life.

In 2014, concerns about Dr Weerasena was brought to the attention of the General Medical Council after Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust had reviewed its paediatric care services and suspected the surgeon of a number of failings related to the care of seven children and one adult. In January 2017, he was found guilty of misconduct and struck off. Tragically Carrie died in December 2013 aged twenty.

Prior to the review of the standard of care at Leeds Royal Infirmary, Carrie´s mother – Dawn Clayton – had made a claim for negligent heart surgery against the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS trust, alleging that her daughter´s brain damage could have been avoided at the time and in the circumstances, and was attributable to Dr Weerasena´s negligence.

In the claim for negligent heart surgery it was argued that there was no justifiable reason for Carrie being kept in circulatory arrest for so long, as the surgery was not an emergency operation and Dr Weerasena had other options available to him. However, until the surgeon was found guilty of misconduct by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, the NHS Litigation Authority refused to settle the case.

Now Carrie´s mother is to receive £430,000 compensation in settlement of her claim for negligent heart surgery. She has also received an apology from Dr Yvette Oade, the Chief Medical Officer for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. In her apology, Dr Oade said:  “On behalf of the hospital I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family of Carrie, and deeply regret that we failed to provide the standard of care that she and her family were entitled to expect”.

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NHS Settles Medical Negligence Claim for Undiagnosed Deep Vein Thrombosis

An NHS Hospital Trust has settled a medical negligence claim for undiagnosed deep vein thrombosis that resulted in the death of a mother of three.

On March 15th 2010, Alison Taylor (29) gave birth to her third child, a daughter – Yvie-Mae. A few days later, she was referred to the Maternity Unit of Leicester Royal Infirmary by a community midwife after complaining of cramps and swelling in her right leg.

On her arrival at the hospital, Alison – herself a healthcare assistant at the Leicester Royal Infirmary – shared her concerns with staff that she might be suffering from a blot clot. However registrar Dr Vijay Kumar Kalathy discounted DVT as a diagnosis, failed to conduct a blood test, and told Alison he was unable to perform an ultrasound scan on her leg because it was the weekend.

Alison continued to suffer with the pain and swelling in her right leg, and attended her GP – Dr Philip Hussey – on 31st March. Dr Hussey also misdiagnosed Alison´s condition as cramp and prescribed her painkillers. Tragically, Alison was found collapsed later that evening by her husband, and died in hospital the same night due to a pulmonary embolism caused by deep vein thrombosis.

The inquest into Alison´s death recorded a narrative verdict, although Assistant Deputy Coroner Robert Chapman noted that a scan at the Leicester Royal Infirmary could possibly have saved her life. The University of Leicester NHS Hospitals Trust has since acted on the Assistant Deputy Coroner´s recommendations and re-introduce weekend scanning in its Maternity Unit.

Following the inquest, Alison´s husband – Darren Taylor made a medical negligence claim for undiagnosed deep vein thrombosis, alleging that Dr Kalathy had failed in his duty of care by not following hospital procedures when the possibility of deep vein thrombosis exists. The NHS Trust refused to accept liability for six years, but has now settled the medical negligence claim for undiagnosed deep vein thrombosis for a six-figure sum.

Speaking after his medical negligence claim for undiagnosed deep vein thrombosis had been resolved, Darren told his local paper: “ It has been a long, hard seven years but I am happy we have got the NHS to own up and the trust says lessons have been learnt. Alison was a healthcare assistant so she was very aware of the risks of DVT. But the doctors seemed quite dismissive of her symptoms. If they had done what they were supposed to do Alison should be here now.”

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Woman to Claim for Medical Negligence Resulting in a Preventable Amputation

A woman is making a claim for medical negligence resulting in a preventable amputation after doctors allegedly misinterpreted the results of a CT scan.

The unnamed woman was admitted to hospital in January last year after fracturing her left femur. As she had a clinical history of underlying malignancy, she underwent a CT scan, X-rays and a blood test to determine whether her injury was due to a disease – such as osteoporosis – that led to a weakness of the bone structure.

The test results were interpreted as showing no signs of a disease. The woman subsequently underwent femoral nailing surgery – a procedure in which a metal rod is inserted into the cavity of the bone to strengthen it – and she was discharged soon after. However, a bone sample taken during the surgery revealed the presence of a cancerous tumour.

The woman was readmitted to hospital the following month to be treated for deep vein thrombosis – a common complication of femoral nailing surgery – and, on her discharge, found that her discharge notification included the results of the bone sample test. She complained that nobody had told her about the presence of a cancerous tumour, and the hospital conducted an investigation.

The diagnosis of cancer was not confirmed until one week later and, due to the treatment options being compromised by the femoral nailing surgery, she had to undergo an above the knee amputation to prevent the disease from spreading. The hospital explained the reason for the cancer not being identified on the CT scan as the scan not including the site in the thigh where the tumour was located.

After seeking legal advice, the woman has instructed solicitors to investigate the level of care she received in order to see if she can justifiably make a claim for medical negligence resulting in a preventable amputation against the Central Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Her solicitor believes her claim for medical negligence resulting in a preventable amputation believes she may have a strong case. He said:

“The swift, and more importantly, accurate diagnosis of cancer is absolutely crucial as early treatment can often provide the best possible chances of recovery and to prevent long-term health complications. Sadly, in this case, the NHS’ own investigation suggests that the staff who treated the woman at the NHS Trust in question failed to carry out the correct tests, meaning her cancer was not diagnosed as early as it could have been.”

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Woman Settles her Claim for the Misdiagnosis of Skin Cancer

A woman who was told she had a malignant melanoma after being informed the growth was benign has settled her claim for the misdiagnosis of skin cancer.

In February 2013, Joyce Huck (72) from Sutton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire, underwent surgery at Bradford Royal Infirmary to have a growth on her skin removed. Two separate tests reported that the growth was non-cancerous but, when the growth started to develop again, Joyce expressed her concerns to her GP.

The GP referred Joyce for a biopsy and, on Christmas Eve 2014, she was called back into the hospital and told she had a malignant melanoma. Joyce underwent further surgery in early 2015 to have the growth removed again, and samples were taken from her lymph nodes to determine if the cancer had spread to her organs. Fortunately she was given the all clear.

After recovering from the second round of surgery, Joyce sought legal advice and made a claim for the misdiagnosis of skin cancer against the Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – alleging that the stress and anxiety she had suffered between the correct diagnosis being made and receiving the all clear had been very painful for her and her family.

The NHS Trust admitted a breach in its duty of care, and a five-figure settlement of Joyce´s claim for the misdiagnosis of skin cancer was agreed. The NHS Trust also publicly apologised for the stress and anxiety Joyce and her family had suffered, saying it was “deeply sorry”. A spokesman added: “The care we provided fell below our usual high standards and we sincerely apologise to Mrs Huck for this”.

Speaking after her claim for the misdiagnosis of skin cancer had been resolved, Joyce told her local newspaper: “At the time [of being called back to the hospital] I was not told the previous biopsies had been misreported. It was only when I was referred to a plastic surgeon for the growth to be completely removed that I was told the earlier biopsies had also shown cancer. It was shocking to think I’d been living with cancer for so long and it had been left untreated.”

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Woman Awarded Compensation for the Failure to Diagnose Viral Encephalitis

A woman from Gloucestershire has been awarded compensation for the failure to diagnose viral encephalitis that led to her suffering permanent brain damage.

The unnamed woman attended her local hospital in June 2009 complaining of severe headaches and was kept in overnight for observation. Doctors sent her home the following day after failing to identify the symptoms of viral encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain – but she was re-admitted the following morning as an emergency.

Even though the condition was correctly diagnosed on her re-admission, the woman was not administered the correct drugs for forty-eight hours and her condition deteriorated – causing her to sustain permanent brain damage. She now needs around the clock care and suffers from acute amnesia – effectively living in a world of her own.

The woman´s family claimed compensation for the failure to diagnose viral encephalitis on her behalf. The Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust admitted medical negligence and, at the High Court in London, the woman was awarded a £1.1 lump sum of compensation for the failure to diagnose viral encephalitis plus index-linked annual payments for the rest of her life.

At the hearing, Judge Sir Ian Dove commented: “Money can never fully correct what has happened to the claimant in this case, but unfortunately it is the best that the law can do. She will be now be comfortable and secure for the remainder of her life, will be able to stay in her own home and to have carers around her so that she can live the fullest life she can.”

Speaking on behalf of the Gloucester Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Barrister Alexander Hutton QC said: “We are extremely sorry for the failings that happened in relation to the care of this claimant. The consequences for her have been very grave. I would like to pay tribute to her family. They have been unstinting in their support of the claimant in very difficult circumstances. We do hope that this compensation helps and we do wish the claimant and her family all the best for the future.”

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Hospital Admits Mistakes Were Made in Claim for Negligent Prolapse Treatment

A hospital has admitted mistakes were made and made an interim compensation payment in partial settlement of a claim for negligent prolapse treatment.

In November 2012, Diana Birch (69) – a former paediatrician and charity director – attended the Royal Free Hospital in London to undergo a rectoplasty procedure to treat a prolapsed bowel. Unfortunately the procedure was not entirely successful and, in December 2013, Diana was readmitted to the hospital for a key-hole rectoplexy.

On recovering from the second procedure, Diana found she had lost feeling in her lower back and left leg, and was unable to stand. An MRI scan revealed that her left femoral nerve had been damaged during the rectoplexy procedure, but the hospital failed to respond to the injury – resulting in Diana suffering further damage to her ureter and having to have one of her kidneys removed.

After seeking legal advice, Diana made a claim for negligent prolapse treatment against the Royal Free London NHA Foundation Trust, alleging that her injury was caused by surgical negligence and exacerbated by the hospital´s failure to act once the injury was discovered. Diana claimed that with earlier intervention, she may have recovered from the paralysis, but due to a second instance of medical negligence that opportunity has now passed.

The Royal Free Hospital investigated Diana´s claim for negligent prolapse treatment and has now admitted mistakes were made and liability for her injury. An interim payment of compensation has been made in partial settlement of her claim for negligent prolapse treatment while reports are being compiled into her future needs. The final settlement should allow Diana to complete rehabilitation therapy and provide her with the equipment she needs to live as independently as possible.

Diana told newspaper reporters: “This has changed my life completely and three years on I am still trying to come to terms with what has happened to me and what could have been done to prevent it or correct it before it was too late. My greatest wish now is that lessons can be learned from what has happened to me so that no one else has their life turned upside-down as I have.”

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43% of Medical Negligence Claims against the NHS Settled Only When Court Proceedings are Issued

A freedom of information request has revealed that 43% of medical negligence claims against the NHS are settled only once court proceedings are issued.

During the last year, 5,795 medical negligence claims against the NHS were settled by the NHS Litigation Authority – 2,514 (43%) only after court proceedings were issued. Inasmuch as the proportion of claims settled at a late stage of litigation may be a cause for concern, the fact that the 43% of claims accounted for 76% of the NHLSA´s legal costs last year has angered certain elements of the legal industry.

In recent weeks, several national newspapers have published articles criticising “grossly inflated and morally questionable” legal fees paid to lawyers by the NHSLA – one newspaper alleging that lawyer´s legal fees are costing the taxpayer £1.5 billion per year. During 2015/16, the NHSLA actually paid legal costs for medical negligence claims against the NHS of £418 million.

One leading legal professional – Stephen Webber, chair of the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers – has hit back against the front-page offensives in the media. He told the Law Society Gazette that the NHSLA´s failure to admit liability was extending the length of time it took to settle medical negligence claims against the NHS. “The NHSLA is defending cases too long and increasing costs”, he said.

The timing of Mr Webber´s counter-attack against misleading headlines is possibly deliberate. The government is currently conducting a consultation on proposals to limit recoverable costs for medical negligence claims against the NHS – proposals that lawyers are strongly opposed to due to the risk that claimants may be denied access to justice.

However, a spokesman for the NHSLA told the Law Society Gazette that Mr Webber´s interpretation of the data was itself misleading. He said that court proceedings can be issued for some medical negligence claims against the NHS to avoid claimants being time-barred from recovering compensation by the Statute of Limitations or because an agreed settlement for a child requires court approval.

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Judge Approves Compensation for Brain Damage due to a Mismanaged Birth

A judge at London´s High Court has approved a settlement of compensation for brain damage due to a mismanaged birth in favour of a woman in her thirties.

The woman – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was born with brain damage in the 1970s after her birth at the Southmead Hospital in Bristol was allegedly mismanaged. The woman has been looked after by her mother and sister since her birth; but, as her mother is now getting older, the decision was made to claim compensation for brain damage due to a mismanaged birth in order that the woman would be assured of professional care for the rest of her life.

The claim was unusual inasmuch as it had been made after so long a time. Initially, the Department of Health – against who the claim was made – contested its responsibility for the woman´s brain damage, but eventually agreed to a settlement package based on 50% liability without an actual admission of liability. The package consists of a £1.8 million lump sum in order that the family can buy a specially adapted home and annual tax-free, index-linked payments £120,000.

Approving the settlement of compensation for brain damage due to a mismanaged birth at London´s High Court, Mr Justice Foskett said the total value of the compensation package amounted to £3,345,000 due to the woman´s “greatly shortened” life expectancy. The judge commented that it was an “entirely sensible” package in the circumstances and paid tribute to the woman´s mother and sister for providing dedicated care for decades before taking legal action.

Also paying tribute to the “incredible care and devotion” provided by the woman´s mother and sister was William Wraight. Mr Wraight was in court representing the National Health Service said that Southmead Hospital “regrets the circumstances which gave rise to this claim”. Judge Foskett closed the hearing by saying the woman´s care was “very demanding, and has been over a number of years, none of which is her fault”.

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Compensation for the Failure to Diagnose a Cancerous Mole Settled Out of Court

A woman has recovered a settlement of compensation for the failure to diagnose a cancerous mole after two doctors told her she had nothing to worry about.

The unnamed woman claimed compensation for the failure to diagnose a cancerous mole after attending her local surgery with concerns about a mole on her foot that had changed in appearance and become itchy. The GP she saw initially told her she had nothing to worry about and sent her home.

As the mole continued to concern the woman, she returned to the surgery a few weeks later. A second GP refused to refer her to a specialist and repeated the opinion that she had nothing to worry about before sending her home. Neither doctor measured the size of the mole.

It was only on a third visit to her local surgery that the woman´s concerns were taken seriously. The third GP she saw decided that she could not remove the mole but suggested cutting away the top of it. The woman declined the suggested treatment and was referred instead to her local hospital.

At the hospital, a dermatologist removed part of the mole and sent it for tests. The result of the biopsy was that the mole was cancerous, and the woman underwent an operation to have the entire mole removed. Unfortunately, subsequent tests revealed that the cancer from the mole had metastasised, and the woman is now undergoing treatment for secondary cancer.

The woman sought legal advice about her rights and, on the advice of her solicitor, claimed compensation for the failure to diagnose a cancerous mole against the GP who had first attended her and the surgery. She alleged in her claim that, had she received an appropriate standard of care on her first visit, the cancer would have been identified sooner and her prognosis better.

The GP and the surgery both denied negligence and contested that the woman was entitled to any compensation for the failure to diagnose a cancerous mole. However, after the defendants were threatened with court action, their insurance companies settled the claim for an undisclosed six-figure sum.

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Woman Receives Compensation for Injuries Caused by a Surgical Mask

A woman whose jaw was dislocated during an operation is to receive a six-figure settlement of compensation for injuries caused by a surgical mask.

In December 2010, Amanda Walker (48) from Knaresborough in North Yorkshire received the devastating news that she had miscarried twins. She was booked into Harrogate District Hospital to undergo a routine procedure to remove the foetuses but, when she woke up from the operation, Amanda was unable to open her mouth and experience severe pain down the right side of her face.

The hospital claimed that the pain was attributable to a condition she had developed ten year´s previously but, on a later visit to her dentist, it was found that Amanda´s jaw was misaligned and that there was significant damage to the soft tissues surrounding it. Amanda underwent an MRI scan, where it was revealed that her jaw had been dislocated as if she had been in a car accident.

Amanda had to undergo four corrective operations including one to insert a prosthetic jaw. The hospital maintained that the injuries were attributable to a historic condition but Amanda was not convinced and sought legal advice. Her solicitor´s investigation uncovered that the injuries had been caused by the force with which a surgical mask had been applied during the operation at Harrogate District Hospital.

Amanda – who has been unable to return to her job in PR and advertising since the incident – made a claim for compensation for injuries caused by a surgical mask. The claim was contested until recently, when the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust admitted it liability for Amanda´s injuries and agreed to a six-figure settlement of her claim.

Dr David Scullion – Medical Director for the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust – said: “The Trust is pleased an agreement has been reached. We have apologised to Ms Walker for the impact this injury has had on her. We conducted an investigation into Ms Walker’s care with us in 2010 and want to give assurance that we have learned all we can from this incident.”

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