Archive for July 2015

Nursing Home Ordered to Pay Compensation for the Failure to Act on a Broken Hip

A nursing home, a local council and a GP have each been ordered to pay compensation for the failure to act on a broken hip by the Local Government Ombudsman.

In February 2012, seventy-seven year old Monica O´Donnell fell at the Parkview House Nursing Home in Uxbridge and broke her hip. Staff at the care home failed to call a doctor immediately, and it was only when Monica complained of a pain in her right thigh and being unable to walk that medical help was sought.

However, when Monica´s GP attended her, he was only told of her symptoms and not that care home staff had found her unable to move on the floor. As Monica suffers from Alzheimer´s disease, she was unable to remember that she had fallen, and it was not until thirty-two days after her accident that she was admitted to Hillingdon Hospital where the broken hip was diagnosed.

Monica underwent a hip replacement operation but, because of her frail condition, she died six weeks later. Medical staff at Hillingdon Hospital raised a safeguarding alert, recommending that Hillingdon Council investigate the standard of care provided at the Parkview Nursing Home. However, due to the nursing home doctoring its records, the council´s investigation concluded that the nursing home acted appropriately.

Dissatisfied with this conclusion, Monica´s daughter – Angela Kelly – went to great lengths to find out why her mother´s care had been below standard. Angela approached NHS England, the Quality Care Commission, the council and her MP Sir John Randall before finally finding that the Local Government Ombudsman was willing to investigate her claim of nursing home neglect.

Following their investigation – in which the conflicting nursing home records were uncovered – the Local Government Ombudsman found the Parkview House Nursing Home in breach of its duty of care and ordered it to pay £1,000 compensation for the failure to act on a broken hip. The Ombudsman also found that the council´s investigation into the incident was inadequate and ordered it to pay Angela £500 compensation for the failure to act on a broken hip.

Finally, Monica´s GP – the Oakland Medical Centre in Uxbridge – was ordered to pay £750 compensation for the failure to act on a broken hip after it was found to have kept inadequate records and failing to be suspicious about the circumstance in which Monica acquired her injury. All three parties were also ordered to send Angela a written apology for the substandard care her mother had received at the nursing home.

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Terminally Ill Mum Settles Claim for the Misdiagnosis of Bowel Cancer

A terminally ill mother of three has settled her claim for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer against the estate of her former consultant surgeon.

Emma Cook (41) from Stanbridge in Bedfordshire, emigrated to Australia with her husband Jonathan in 2010; months after being discharged by her former consultant surgeon – Dr James Tweedie – without the doctor completing the full range of investigations into a mass that had been identified close to Emma´s appendix.

Emma had first attended her GP in November 2009, complaining of intermittent abdominal pain. Her GP diagnosed her with a urinary tract infection and prescribed antibiotics. However, her symptoms developed into fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, and she was referred to the A&E Department at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

At Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Emma was examined by consultant surgeon Dr James Tweedie, who suspected that her symptoms could either be caused by a urinary tract infection, an ovarian cyst or appendicitis. He arranged for an ultrasound that identified a mass around the appendix, and Emma was put on intravenous antibiotic treatment ahead of a planned appendectomy.

However, the antibiotic treatment eased Emma´s symptoms and she was discharged from hospital on 1st December 2009 without the appendectomy being conducted. Emma was reviewed by Dr Tweedie on 8th December and 5th January 2010 before being discharged from his care, but with no follow-up treatment advised.

After Emma and her young family moved to Australia, Emma started experiencing the intermittent abdominal pain again. She visited her GP, who conducted more thorough tests than Dr Tweedie, and was diagnosed with the advanced stages of bowel cancer in February 2011. Emma sought legal advice and made a claim for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer against Dr Tweedie.

In the claim for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer it was alleged that, as it is impossible to differentiate between an infection of the lower abdomen and bowel cancer, Dr Tweedie should have conducted a colonoscopy to eliminate the possibility of the latter. Had a colonoscopy revealed that Emma was suffering from bowel cancer, she could have received treatment that would have prevented the cancer spreading to the rest of her body.

Before the legal action could commence, Dr Tweedie himself succumbed to cancer and died in July 2011. The claim for the misdiagnosis of bowel cancer was then made against the former consultant surgeon´s estate and recently settled for £125,000; after which Emma said: “We wouldn’t have moved our young family to the other side of the world, thousands of miles away from our parents and friends, had Dr Tweedie correctly diagnosed me”.

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Couple Seek Legal Advice over Missed Diagnosis of Cancer of the Womb

A couple from Sunderland have been in contact with a solicitor following an alleged missed diagnosis of cancer of the womb that will prove to be terminal.

Jeanette Scully (47) from Castletown in Tyne and Wear attended the A&E Department of the Sunderland Royal Hospital earlier this year with terrible pains in her lower stomach. A scan revealed that she had a mass in her abdomen, which doctors diagnosed as an infected fibroid. Jeanette was given antibiotics and discharged.

When the pain continued, Jeanette attended her GP. Allegedly the GP told her that the power of positive thought would help her cope with the pain; but, on Good Friday this year, Jeanette was screaming with pain and her partner of twenty-two years took her back to Sunderland A&E – where she was eventually admitted for pain management treatment after being initially discharged.

Consultants at the Sunderland Royal Hospital said they could not find any reason for her pain, but a scan conducted in May after a further visit to the A&E Department revealed that Jeanette had a soft tissue sarcoma in her womb. The following month, Jeanette and David were given the devastating news that Jeanette had cancer of the womb that was so far advanced it was unlikely to respond to chemotherapy.

On receipt of the news, the couple sought legal advice about the possible missed diagnosis of cancer of the womb. Their solicitor has initiated an investigation into the standard of care Jeanette received at the Sunderland Royal Hospital and from her GP – Dr Weatherhead and Associates of Southwick, Tyne and Wear.

Speaking to her local press, Jeanette said: “I just want to know that what happened to me will be properly investigated and something will be done about it as I would never want anyone else to go through what we have. I really believe that if I had been properly investigated when I first reported symptoms things would have been very different.”

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Claim for Tetraplegic Birth Injuries Resolved after Delay in Court

The High Court in Ireland has approved the €9 million settlement of a claim for tetraplegic birth injuries after an unprecedented delay in reaching an agreement.

Alex Butler from East Dunmore in County Waterford was born “blue and lifeless” at the Waterford Regional Hospital in April 2005, after a locum doctor covering the vacation of her mother´s consultant obstetrician failed to act on complications with her delivery.

Alex´s birth was avoidably delayed by ten minutes and, due to being starved of oxygen in the womb, is severely brain damaged. Although Alex is described as having a “bright personality with a huge intelligence”, her tetraplegic birth injuries mean that she will need around the clock care for the rest of her life.

Sonya Butler – Alex´s mother – made a compensation claim for tetraplegic birth injuries against the Health Service Executive (HSE) – the equivalent in Ireland of the National Health Service. The HSE acknowledged liability for Alex´s avoidable brain damage and a €1.4 million interim payment of compensation was made in 2013 in lieu of a structured settlement system being introduced.

The 2013 case was adjourned for two years so that proposed legislation could be passed to enable a structured compensation payment system. As that legislation has not yet been presented to the Irish parliament, but with the necessary legislation not yet passed, the claim for tetraplegic birth injuries was heard at the High Court in Dublin by Mr Justice Anthony Barr.

The hearing commenced with a representative of Waterford Regional Hospital saying that the hospital “sincerely regrets the tragic consequences their failings have caused to both Alex and to her parents John and Sonya Butler”. Thereafter, the judge heard that there were still issues with the settlement and a series of witnesses were called protracting the hearing.

Negotiations continued for an unprecedented eighteen days until the agreement of a €9 million settlement was reached. Approving the settlement of Alex´s claim for tetraplegic birth injuries, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said the settlement was reasonable and sensible – but, outside the High Court, Alex´s parents said they were shocked that negotiations had taken so long.

Sonya Butler criticised the State Claims Agency´s approach to negotiations and told reporters “They fought tooth and nail. They basically want Alex to have an existence, not a life. They want her to scrape by with the bare minimum rather than her having the life that she should have had.” Sonya claimed that they only conceded to the parent´s demands because “their costs [for the protracted court case] were going to be astronomical”.

The State Claims Agency responded by issuing a statement “The State Claims Agency recognises that clinical negligence cases involve patients who have suffered enormous trauma and pain. The Agency is acutely conscious that it has a duty to act fairly, ethically and with compassion in all its dealings with these patients and their families.”

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Daughter Receives Compensation for a Lack of Care in a Nursing Home

The daughter of a woman, who died shortly after sustaining pressure sores on her legs, has received compensation for a lack of care in a nursing home.

Ninety-eight year old Ivy Jones was moved into the Carshalton Nursing Home in November 2012 due to falling several times in her home in Mitcham, Surrey. Ivy suffered from dry skin on her legs; but, shortly after moving into the nursing home, pressure sores developed on both of her calves which caused Ivy significant distress and a substantial amount of pain when the dressings on her legs were changed.

Visiting relatives complained to staff at the nursing home about the deterioration in Ivy´s condition; however, Ivy´s condition deteriorated further. Eventually Ivy´s family complained to her social worker, who arranged for Ivy to be moved to a different nursing home in January 2013. Tragically Ivy died just one month later in February 2013.

Sutton Council conducted an investigation into the standard of care at the nursing home after receiving complaints from Ivy´s family and found that the “the quality of care fell below the acceptable standard”. The local authority placed an embargo on the nursing home until November 2014, when a new manager was employed and improvements made to how the operation was run.

The council´s investigation also concluded that more should have been done to prevent the development and deterioration of Ivy´s pressure sores and that the nursing home staff could have made a greater effort to obtain medical attention for her.

Subsequently, Ivy´s daughter – Shirley Dell – sought legal advice and claimed compensation for a lack of care in a nursing home. The owners of Carshalton Nursing Home denied liability for Ivy´s injuries, but agreed to an out-of-court settlement of £12,000 without an admission of liability.

Speaking after the settlement of compensation for a lack of care in a nursing home had become public, Shirley was reported in her local press as saying: “I just wanted some form of justice for my mum. When they changed her dressings she used to scream in agony. It wasn’t right for her to suffer like she did.”

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NHS Clinical Negligence Claims costing more than £1 Billion per Year

More than £1 Billion was paid out to settle NHS clinical negligence claims in 2014/15, and the NHS Litigation Authority expect that figure to rise next year.

The cost of NHS clinical negligence claims was revealed in the NHS Litigation Authority´s annual report and is attributed to several factors, significantly – according to Chief Executive Officer Helen Vernon – that more people are being treated on the NHS.

The Authority says that it plans to work with the NHS to reduce litigation costs and to improve safety and learning, although – it was claimed in the report – that an increase in the number of reported medical incidents could be due to a “positive reporting culture”.

The amount of money that is being spent on resolving NHS clinical negligence claims has attracted a lot of criticism – not least from Dr Michael Devlin from the Medical Defence Union, who claims that the amount paid out in settlements could have funded over eight million MRI scans.

Dr Devlin blamed the “unsustainable cost” of private sector health and social care packages that claimants receive, and said: “Today´s figures only accentuate the need for a complete rethink of personal injury law”.

However, government plans to cap the value of NHS clinical negligence claims and the legal costs associated with litigation have come under attack by solicitors and consumer rights groups, who argue that limiting the amount of money solicitors can charge will restrict patients´ access to justice.

Jonathon Wheeler – President of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) – said that it was wrong to blame lawyers for the cost of NHS clinical negligence claims when the fault lay with the government for failing to provide an acceptable standard of healthcare.

Mr Wheeler also had words to say about the way in which NHS clinical negligence claims are handled by the NHS Litigation Authority. He said:

“There are cases where the NHS needs to admit liability straight away and make an interim payment and then put in place some meaningful rehabilitation. If the NHS did that, then patients would get better more quickly, the damages are not going to be so much and the legal costs are also going to be reduced.”

The publication of the NHS Litigation Authority annual accounts will strengthen calls for a radical overhaul of how NHS clinical negligence claims are handled, but Mr Wheeler commented: “The NHS LA are their own worst enemy because they won’t recognise when mistakes have been made, driving up legal costs on both sides.”

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Settlement of Compensation for Locked-In Syndrome to be Decided by Judge

A judge will decide how much compensation for locked-in syndrome should be awarded to a man from Cork after an agreement could not be reached during a court hearing.

In November 2001, Eoin O´Mahony was admitted to the Cork University Hospital for brain surgery following complaints of headaches. An initial procedure on 23rd November to reduce pressure on his brain failed to resolve the problem, and Eoin underwent a second operation on 30th November to partially remove a tumour that had been discovered.

Unfortunately, Eoin lapsed into a coma on 1st December due to brain damaged caused by the negligence of his surgeon. When Eoin recovered, he was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome – a condition in which a patient is aware, but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body.

The Cork University Hospital conceded liability for Eoin´s brain injuries in 2009, and interim payments of compensation for locked-in syndrome amounting to €4.1 million have been paid to his parents in lieu of a structured periodic payment system being introduced. As legislation has not been passed for periodic payments, Eoin´s parents had asked for a lump sum payment to finish the thirteen years of litigation they have endured on their son´s behalf.

At the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty conceded to their request, but after nineteen days of hearings – during which Eoin´s future needs were discussed – no agreement could be reached between Eoin´s legal team and the State Claims Agency. Mr Justice Michael Moriarty briefly adjourned the hearing after instructing the parties that the final settlement of compensation for locked-in would be between €10 million and €10.1 million and asked them to reach agreement.

When the hearing reconvened, Judge Moriarty was told that Eoin´s family was willing to split the difference, but the State Claims Agency would not agree to the arrangement. The judge said that he would make the final decision in October, and instructed the State Claims Agency to make a further payment of €800,000 to Eoin´s family to cover their medical and care expenses in the intervening period.

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Settlement Approved of Compensation for Brain Damage due to Medical Negligence

A High Court judge in Ireland has approved an interim €1.5 million settlement of compensation for brain damage due to medical negligence at a Dublin hospital.

Martin Byrne (52) from Swords in County Dublin was admitted to the Mater University Hospital in December 2010 to undergo surgery to resolve his angina. The surgery initially appeared successful but, when pacing wires were removed five days later, Martin suffered a heart attack caused by internal bleeding.

Following the heart attack, Martin´s heart stopped for fifteen minutes – during which time his brain was deprived of oxygen. He went into a coma from which he did not awaken until February 2011, when it was discovered that he had suffered profound brain damage. Martin is now cared for full-time by his wife Una, who has given up her job to support him.

As he is unable to legally represent himself, Una claimed compensation for brain damage due to medical negligence on Martin´s behalf – alleging that the junior medical staff who had removed the pacing wires from Martin´s heart were inexperienced, and that their lack of skill resulted in the internal bleeding that led to the heart attack and subsequent deprivation of oxygen.

It took over three years for the Mater University Hospital to acknowledge its liability for Martin´s injury, after which an interim settlement of compensation for brain damage due to medical negligence was agreed. However, as the claim was made on behalf of a claimant legally unable to represent themselves, the settlement first had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in Martin´s best interests.

Consequently, at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard about Martin´s background – that he was a former taxi driver and father of four who, prior to his heart attack, had been an active man who enjoyed camping with his family and scuba diving. Una told Judge Cross “we thought it was the beginning of the rest of our lives as our children were working or at college”.

Judge Cross was also told the details of the interim settlement of compensation for brain damage due to medical negligence. The interim settlement of €1.5 million will cover Martin´s medical and rehabilitation costs for the next three years while reports are compiled on his future needs. Then he will either receive a lump sum settlement of the claim or periodic payments for the rest of his life.

The judge approved the settlement of compensation for brain damage due to medical negligence and adjourned the case – wishing the family well for the future.

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Woman Awarded Compensation for being Taken to the Wrong Hospital

A woman who was taken to a hospital rather than a specialist centre after suffering a stroke has been awarded compensation for being taken to the wrong hospital.

Lynne Horner (69) from Bolton in Greater Manchester had been retired for just a year when she suffered a serious stroke in July 2010. Her husband – David (71) – was quick to acknowledge the symptoms and immediately called the emergency services.

A rapid response paramedic arrived within ten minutes and confirmed that Lynne had suffered a stroke; but when an ambulance arrived three minutes later, the ambulance paramedic assessed that Lynne was recovering and, rather than take her to the specialist stroke centre at the Salford Royal Hospital, drove Lynne and David to the Royal Bolton Hospital instead.

Lynne remained at the Royal Bolton Hospital for more than two and a half hours before it was confirmed that she had suffered a right-sided stroke and she was transferred to the Salford Royal Hospital. However, by the time Lynne received thrombolysis treatment to reduce the blood clots, it was more than four hours after her stroke and the treatment was ineffective.

As a result of being taken to the wrong hospital, Lynne now has a permanent brain injury. She can no longer drive and is reliant on a wheelchair to move around. Lynne needs help from her husband to complete day-to-day chores and can no longer take foreign holidays as the couple had planned to do after her retirement.

After seeking legal advice, Lynne claimed compensation for being taken to the wrong hospital against the North West Ambulance Service. She claimed in her legal action that, had she been taken to the correct hospital, thrombolysis treatment would have been administered within ten minutes and she would have not have suffered a permanent neurological injury.

The North West Ambulance Service acknowledged its liability and earlier this month a court hearing was held for the assessment of damages. Lynne was awarded just over one million pounds compensation for being taken to the wrong hospital – money that will be used to cover the cost of specialist care and equipment, and to buy a new home adapted for wheelchair use.

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Hospital Pays Compensation for a Fatal Overdose of Propofol

A Liverpool hospital has paid out an undisclosed sum of compensation for a fatal overdose of Propofol after three patients died within 48 hours of each other.

Christopher Garwell (23), Susan Chiverton (22) and Neil Murphy (18) all died within three days of each other after being admitted to the Walton Neurological Centre in Liverpool with severe head injuries in June 2010. The common link between the three deaths was that each of the patients had been administered the sedative Propofol.

An investigation was launched within hours of the third death due to concerns that the fatalities may all have been due to Propofol infusion syndrome – a rare but acknowledged adverse effect of the sedative. The investigation concluded that changes should be made to the way in which Propofol was administered and recommended stricter limits on how long coma patients should be given the drug.

Cheshire Police launched an investigation into the deaths at the neurological treatment centre, but found nothing to suggest any evidence of negligence or wrong-doing by staff, and batches of the drug were checked to see if the Propofol was in any way faulty, mislabelled or contaminated.

Despite independent enquiries finding no proof of negligence, the family of the one of the victims – Neil Murphy – claimed compensation for a fatal overdose of Propofol, alleging that Neil had died due to complications after being administered the drug. They argued that had it not been for the increased use of Propofol, Neil would have survived his head injury.

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust disputed the claim, arguing that it was “impractical to measure the weight of a critically ill ventilated patient [to determine the correct dosage of the sedative] and an estimate was used”. However, the NHS Trust ultimately admitted to a “potential contribution” to Neil´s death, and an undisclosed payment of compensation for a fatal overdose of Propofol was made to his family.

A spokesperson from the Walton centre NHS Foundation Trust made a statement in which he revealed that “a payment has been made to Mr Murphy´s family by the Trust without an admission of liability”. The spokesperson offered his condolences to the family, but added that “No further legal, disciplinary or regulatory action has been taken against the Trust or individual employees arising out of these circumstances”.

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