The family of a man who died after a compression of his spinal cord went unnoticed is seeking advice about making a claim for an undiagnosed neck fracture.
On 23rd May 2015, Patrick Byrne (87) was admitted to the Royal United Hospital in Bath following a fall at his home in Melksham. Shortly after his admission, Patrick´s neck dropped onto his chest and he was unable to move it.
Despite pleas from his family to investigate the issue, Patrick was discharged to the Chippenham Community Hospital in June. He was readmitted to the Royal United Hospital following a further fall, but it was not until 6th July that a scan was organised for Patrick´s neck.
The scan revealed that Patrick had fractured his neck in the fall at his home and the fracture had resulted in his spinal cord being compressed. The compression of the spinal cord caused Patrick´s paralysis from which he never recovered. Patrick sadly died at the Royal United Hospital on 21st October.
A two-day inquest into Patrick´s death at Avon Coroner´s Court returned a verdict of death by natural causes despite coroner Peter Harrowing stating that Patrick was let down by numerous medical staff who failed to carry out proper examinations or act quickly when serious signs were identified.
A catalogue of faults in Patrick´s care emerged during the inquest. Weekend staff shortages, speculative diagnostic suppositions, poor record keeping and basic deficiencies in communication were said to have communicated to Patrick´s death. However, Mr Harrowing found the hospital’s care did not reach the point of negligence as he believed the paralysis and his eventual death were not preventable.
Family Describes Coroner´s Verdict as Bizarre
Patrick´s family have described the coroner´s verdict as bizarre and have engaged medical negligence solicitors to investigate the possibility of making a claim for an undiagnosed neck fracture. Speaking after the inquest hearing, Patrick´s daughter Elizabeth told the Wiltshire Times:
“The standard of care my father received fell well below what should have been expected and, if the neck fracture had been diagnosed earlier, he could have had treatment which would have avoided the paralysis and his last months would not have been as distressing. The evidence was there. There were a lot of failures.”
The solicitor has said that he will be reviewing the coroner´s findings and reporting back to the family with regard to the practicality of making a claim for an undiagnosed neck fracture. A spokesperson on behalf of the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would once again like to offer our deepest condolences to Mr Byrne’s family at this difficult time. We acknowledge that we did not always meet our own high standards of care on this occasion and for this we apologise.”