Archive for January 2013

Compensation for Fatal Hernia Operation Awarded to Widower

The widower of a woman who died following a “routine” hospital procedure has been awarded £150,000 compensation for fatal hernia operation in an out-of-court settlement.

Helen Blyth (79) underwent the hernia procedure at Northampton General Hospital in March 2010 after being diagnosed with a large hiatus hernia behind her heart border. Soon after 8.00pm on the evening of her surgery, Helen´s blood pressure fell and, at 1.00am the following morning, she was found unresponsive. Despite the best efforts of the emergency team, Helen died at 1.55am.

An inquest into Helen´s death attributed the decrease in blood pressure and subsequent cardiac arrest to a rare complication following surgery; however Helen´s husband – Sydney Blyth – asked solicitors to look more closely into the circumstances surrounding her death.

The solicitor´s medical expert discovered that the surgeon in charge of Helen´s hernia operation – Mr David Cubbon Hunter – had used Pro Tack staples during the procedure despite the manufacturer´s warning that the staples should not be used in circumstances such as Helen´s where the hiatus hernia was located in the diaphragm.

Helen´s family made a claim for fatal hernia operation compensation against Mr Hunter and the Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust, alleging that Mr Hunter both knew about the warning given by the manufacturers of Pro Tack staples and chose to ignore it or was not aware of the risks involved – in either case demonstrating medical negligence.

After an internal investigation, the Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust admitted liability for the error which cost Helen Blyth her life and apologised. A settlement of compensation for fatal hernia operation amounting to £150,000 was negotiated between Sydney´s solicitors and insurers for the hospital.

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Fears Raised over Settlements of NHS Negligence Claims

The Chief Executive of the Medical Defence Union has raised fears that settlements of NHS negligence claims are spiralling out of control and becoming unsustainable.

Speaking on the BBC´s “Today” program, Christine Tomkins said that the value of claims against the NHS being currently settled is rising faster than society´s ability to pay for them. “Money is pouring out of the NHS to set up one-patient institutions” she claimed “when it could be retained in the NHS.”

Ms Tomkins stated that legislation first formulated in 1948 – the Law Reform (Personal Injuries) Act – disregards care provision available from the NHS for those who sustain a catastrophic injury and settlements of claims against the NHS are therefore calculated of how much it would cost to provide care for the injured victim privately.

On the program, she cited the case of Charlie Scott, who was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic hemiplegic atheloid cerebral palsy after being brain damaged at birth, and whose mother recently won a 14-year legal battle against the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Trust.

The settlement of £7.1 million, Ms Tomkins claimed, would be far lower if those calculating the value of compensation in NHS negligence claims could consider the care available on the NHS. According to Ms Tomkins, the NHS Litigation Authority has periodic payment liabilities of £18bn – enough to pay the annual running costs of a dozen large teaching hospitals.

Charlie Scott´s mother, Clare, was also invited onto the radio program. She acknowledged that some of the care and equipment from which Charlie will now benefit could be provided by the NHS, but told presenter Justin Webb that Charlie will no longer have to wait for social services assessments before being provided with the care he needs. Mrs Scott added that the size and structure of the settlement enables the security of 24-hour care for her son when she, or the NHS, would be unable to provide it.

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