UK Consultant Doctor Medical Negligence

In the UK, consultant doctor medical negligence can affect the health of patients in practically every medical discipline. From childbirth to palliative care, we rely on consultant doctors to be experts in their field of medicine and to provide us with specialist knowledge when we are ill.

Because of the level of trust we have in consultant doctors, when a mistake is made that results in a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition, making a compensation claim for consultant doctor medical negligence helps us to find out why the mistake was made and – hopefully – prevents the same mistake from happening again.

However, in order for a consultant doctor medical negligence compensation claim to be successful, an independent medical expert will have to find that “at the time and in the circumstances” the treatment that you received was below an acceptable standard of care. The expert will also have to connect the act or omission of the consultant doctor with the injury you sustained.

Making this “connection” will involve a review of your medical records and possibly an examination by the independent medical expert to assess the cause and extent of your injury. As some injuries caused by consultant doctor medical negligence heal over time, it is in your best interests to speak with a medical negligence solicitor at the earliest practical opportunity to discuss compensation claims for consultant doctor medical negligence.

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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NHS Litigation Authority Settles Claim for the Missed Diagnosis of Cancer

A woman from Swindon has received £50,000 compensation from the NHS Litigation Authority in settlement of her claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer.

In March 2009, the unnamed mother of two attended her GP complaining of a lump on the left side of her neck and a persistent dry cough. The woman was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat Department of the Royal United Hospital in Bath, where she underwent a CT scan.

The scan suggested that the woman may have cancer of the lymph nodes, but the biopsy sample taken to confirm the result of the CT scan was insufficient for a full assessment to be conducted. A review of the scan concluded that there was no need to conduct another biopsy and instead the hospital carried out an MRI scan on her neck.

Following the MRI scan, the woman was diagnosed with “idiopathic vocal chord palsy” – a weakness of the vocal chords that manifests in a persistent dry cough and a hoarse voice. However, in July 2011, the woman returned to her GP with an increase in size of her left cervical lymph nodes, and pins and needles in her left arm.

The GP sent his patient for an urgent chest X-ray and ultrasound scan of her neck. This time the woman was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that had spread into her neck and left shoulder and had to undergo six courses of chemotherapy. Fortunately the treatment managed to halt the spread of the cancer and the pins and needles disappeared.

Due to the distress she had experienced, the woman made a complaint to the Royal University Hospital. The hospital denied any failings in the standard of care she had received, so she sought legal advice and made a claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer after an investigation commissioned by her solicitor detected a number of abnormalities on the 2009 scan.

In her claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer it was alleged that, if the cancer had been correctly identified in 2009, the disease could have been treated with hormone therapy and the woman would not have required chemotherapy. It was also alleged that the appropriate treatment in a timely manner would have cured the vocal chord palsy from which she still suffers.

The Royal United Hospital continued to deny its liability for the woman´s experience but, after issuing court proceedings, her solicitor was able to negotiate a £50,000 settlement of the claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer with the NHS Litigation Authority. Speaking after the claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer had been settled, the woman´s solicitor said:

“Despite our client’s experience, the defendant continued to deny that the failure of the radiologist to report the abnormalities in the MRI scan fell below an acceptable standard of care. This is disappointing but sadly, has become par for the course in clinical negligence cases, where the NHS Litigation Authority and its defendant solicitors refuse point blank to accept liability. However, we are delighted that we achieved a very good settlement for our client”.

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Woman Settles Claim for the Failure to Acknowledge Medical Instrument Phobia

A woman, who had metal clips inserted during a thyroidectomy against her wishes, has settled her claim for the failure to acknowledge medical instrument phobia.

In 2010, Sylvia Ramsay (66) underwent an operation on her thyroid at the Spire Roding private hospital in Essex. Prior to the surgery, Sylvia had told consultant surgeon Akinyede Ojo that she had a phobia about medical instruments and surgical items being left inside her body.

Sylvia told Dr Ojo that she had heard from an another consultant that it was possible to conduct a thyroidectomy without the use of metal clips, and requested that he avoided the use of clips and used dissolvable stitches instead.

Sylvia came around from the surgery believing that the consultant surgeon had carried out the procedure in line with her wishes. However, a year later she saw a specialist after complaining of breathing difficulties. The specialist took an X-ray of Sylvia´s throat that revealed the presence of twenty-five metal clips.

“I can only explain the feeling as similar to when you have a near miss in a car accident, that jolt of panic, followed by feeling out of control” Sylvia told her local paper. The clips were eventually removed by a private clinic in 2013, but only after her GP had refused to help and Sylvia had undergone a significant amount of therapy in an attempt to come to terms with her phobia.

After seeking legal advice, Sylvia made a claim for the failure to acknowledge medical instrument phobia against Dr Ojo and the Spire Roding hospital. Dr Ojo denied negligence and said that the situation had occurred due to a misunderstanding. However, following a lengthy period of negotiation, a settlement of Sylvia´s claim was agreed without an admission of liability.

“I know this is not a rational reaction but it is not something I can control,” Sylvia said after her claim for the failure to acknowledge medical instrument phobia had been settled. “It’s like putting an arachnophobe into a room full of spiders and telling them not to be so silly.”

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Liability Admitted in Claim for the Negligent Treatment of a Broken Leg

An NHS Trust has admitted liability in a claim for the negligent treatment of a broken leg made by a woman who suffered years of unnecessary pain.

In August 2012, twenty-five year old Sally Marsh from Diglis in Worcestershire broke two bones in her right leg when landing awkwardly while playing soccer for her local women´s football team. Sally was taken by ambulance to Worcester Royal Hospital, where her leg was put into a full leg cast.

Sally was discharged being told it was okay for her to put weight on her right leg. The full leg cast was replaced with a half leg cast after eight weeks, and then Sally wore the half leg cast for a further six weeks. When the half leg cast was removed, it became apparent that Sally´s broken leg had not healed properly.

Sally went to see an orthopaedic specialist who informed her that the bone in her leg had set at a nineteen degree angle. The specialist said that Sally would need an operation to align her bones properly but, due the NHS Trust constantly postponing the operation, Sally did not undergo surgery until nine months later.

In the intervening period, Sally experienced a lot of pain from her leg. She had to take time off from work and was unable to pursue her usual pastimes and hobbies. When the operation to realign the bone in her leg eventually took place, Sally had a metal cage fitted to her leg to help support it, but the cage led to the development of an infection and Sally had to take repeated doses of antibiotics.

After seeking legal advice, Sally made a compensation claim for the negligent treatment of a broken leg against the Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. Sally alleged in her claim that she should not have been discharged so early after being admitted to hospital, that there was a failure by the hospital to appreciate the need for prompt surgical intervention, and that the failing of the hospital led to avoidable nerve damage and a deformity in her right leg.

After conducting an investigation, the Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust acknowledged failings in the standard of care Sally had received. The NHS trust admitted liability for Sally´s injuries and her solicitors are now negotiating a settlement of her claim for the negligent treatment of a broken leg.

After the admission of liability had been received, Sally commented: “It’s a relief that at least now the NHS Trust has admitted that it made mistakes and my legal case can move to the next stage. I just hope that no one else has to suffer as I have in the future.”

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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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Man Settles Compensation Claim for the Failure to Treat an Infection

A man who suffered multiple organ failure after the hospital he was admitted to did not have a consultant available for three days, has settled his compensation claim for the failure to treat an infection for £3 million.

Tristan Rosevear (49) was admitted to the St Mary´s Hospital in Paddington London on Friday 19th November 2010 with an infection in his hip. Despite having low blood pressure and a racing heartbeat, no antibiotics were administered, and Tristan´s requests for a scan were dismissed because there was no consultant available over the weekend to authorise it.

As a rash developed over his body, it was suggested that Tristan take an anti-allergy medication, and all the signs that the infection was developing into sepsis were overlooked. At 4.00pm on the following Monday, Tristan went into septic shock, suffered a stroke and sustained severe brain damage. He had to undergo brain surgery and spent nine weeks in intensive care.

As a result of the hospital´s negligence, the former communications company director is unable to read, write or speak coherently. Tristan´s wife – Janine – has had to give up her career in the film industry to become his full-time carer, and the couple have had to return to their home in New Zealand to continue Tristan´s rehabilitation.

Tristan made a compensation claim for the failure to treat an infection – claiming that he would not have suffered such devastating injuries if he had been administered antibiotics when he was first admitted to the hospital. The Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust – which runs St Mary´s Hospital – initially denied liability for his injuries.

However, just days before a High Court hearing was due to get underway, the NHS Trust decided that it was liable after all and issued Tristan with an apology. Tristan´s solicitor negotiated a settlement of the compensation claim for the failure to treat an infection which consists of a lump sum payment of £1.5 million, plus annual compensation payments for the next twenty years. The total value of the settlement is estimated at £3 million.

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Man Awarded Compensation for a Pulmonary Embolism after Surgery

A man who was not advised of the potential consequences of a hernia operation has been awarded £17,500 compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery.

David Spencer (49) attended Hillingdon Hospital on 1st February 2010 for routine surgery to repair a hernia. The operation was supposed to be conducted by laparoscopy but, due to excessive bleeding obscuring the surgeon´s view, it was completed by an open procedure.

David was considered sufficiently recovered to be discharged from the hospital the same evening, but a few days later he started to suffer aching calf muscles. On his return to work as a property services manager on 15th February, David´s calves were still aching and he noticed that he was short of breath when climbing stairs.

As he had been unable to take much exercise due to his hernia problems, David attributed the pains in his calves and his shortness of breath to a general lack of fitness; but, when his breathlessness failed to improve, David contacted his GP, who advised him to return to the hospital.

On 23rd April, David attended the A&E Department at Hillingdon Hospital and was admitted after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. He was treated with blood thinning medication and kept in hospital for five days until his condition improved.

Following his discharge, David sought legal advice and claimed compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery; alleging that he had not been informed of the full risks associated with the procedure before being asked to give his consent.

The Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust acknowledged that David had not been specifically warned about the risks of deep vein thrombosis developing after his operation, but contested that he had been told to report “any problems” that he experienced in the weeks and months after his initial discharge.

As a result of the dispute of David´s failure to report the pain in his calves to either his GP or his consultant, the claim for compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery went to the High Court, where it was heard by His Honour Judge Collender QC.

Judge Collender was told that a settlement of compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery amounting to £17,500 had been agreed, but that the Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust wanted a 50 percent reduction of the settlement to account for David´s contributory negligence.

After hearing that David that been fitted with pneumatic boots during the surgery – a device that is intended to improve a patient’s blood circulation so as to reduce the risk of a patient suffering from deep vein thrombosis – the judge concluded that the hospital had been aware of the risk of a pulmonary embolism, but this information had not been passed onto David before he was asked to sign the consent form.

Judge Collender ruled that as David had not been informed of the risk of deep vein thrombosis, and that David believed his calf pains were unconnected to his surgery, he could not be considered to have contributed to the extent or severity of his injury. The judge therefore upheld the agreed £17,500 settlement of compensation for a pulmonary embolism after surgery.

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NHS Found Negligent in Claim for the Misdiagnosis of Metastatic Colorectal Cancer

An Australian woman has been successful in her claim for the misdiagnosis of metastatic colorectal cancer and awarded £91,300 at the High Court.

Sue O´Reilly from Sydney in Australia brought her claim for the misdiagnosis of metastatic colorectal cancer following the premature death of her fifty-five year old husband – Dr David O´Reilly – in November 2006. Claiming that David would have lived longer if doctors attached to the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had correctly diagnosed his condition sooner, Sue claimed compensation for the premature loss of her husband and her emotional trauma.

Prior to David´s death, the couple had been living in Chichester, Sussex, and in 2003 David had undergone an endoscopy to detect the cause of symptoms he was experiencing. The consultant surgeon who conducted the endoscopy overlooked a lesion in David´s colon and, the following year, the family´s GP misdiagnosed David with irritable bowel syndrome.

After David´s death, Sue returned to Sydney with her severely disabled son Shane so that she could get support with his care from other members of the family. She attempted to have the claim for the misdiagnosis of metastatic colorectal cancer heard in Australia, but the NHS Trust against whom the claim was made disputed the viability of her actions.

In 2010, the New South Wales Supreme Court agreed to hear the claim in Sydney because of Sue´s commitment to her son but, as the case progressed, Shane died unexpectedly from complications relating to cerebral palsy. The Australian judge hearing the case – Mr Justice Peter Garling – agreed that, as Sue now had no commitments to prevent her from travelling to the UK, it would be more cost-effective to hear evidence from witnesses in London.

Because of the legal similarities between Australia and the UK, Mr Justice Peter Garling was appointed as a temporary examiner by the Royal Court of Justice so that he could continue to hear the claim for the misdiagnosis of metastatic colorectal cancer and ultimately he found the NHS Trust in breach of its duty of care – awarding Sue £91,300 compensation for the premature loss of her husband – but nothing for her emotional trauma, on the grounds that David would have died within five years (instead of three years) had the condition been diagnosed correctly.

More importantly for Sue, Judge Garling dismissed the NHS Trust´s application to pay only 25% of Sue´s legal costs – which had run into almost a million pounds over the nine years she had been fighting the claim for metastatic colorectal cancer. The NHS Trust argued that the legal costs were disproportionately high in comparison to the award of compensation, but Judge Garling disagreed and attributed the full amount of the costs to the NHS.

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Out of Court Settlement of Compensation for Fatal Medication Errors

A family from Tyne and Wear have agreed to a settlement of compensation for fatal medication errors that contributed to the death of a mother of two.

Jean James (75) was a resident of the Maple Lodge Care Home in Sunderland who suffered from Alzheimer´s disease and had limited mobility due to severe arthritis. In December 2013, she developed a chest infection which quickly deteriorated, and she was admitted to the Sunderland Royal Hospital on December 24th.

Over the next few days, Jean´s condition improved as she responded to treatment, but on January 8th she suddenly died due to complications caused by deep vein thrombosis. The inquest into her death found that Jean had died of “natural causes contributed to by neglect”, and the coroner found four areas of concern in the care that Jean had been provided with.

According to the coroner´s report, the doctor responsible for Jean´s admission had been interrupted numerous times and had consequently failed to prescribe medication to eliminate the risk of blood clots. This oversight was not identified in any review by a clinician or nurse and, when a query was raised by the pharmacy, it was not properly communicated.

After hearing that the systems in place at the hospital to deal with human errors were inappropriate, Jean´s family claimed compensation for fatal medication errors against the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, who admitted that there were failures in Jean´s care and agreed an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with the family.

Speaking after the settlement of compensation for fatal medication errors had been announce, Jean´s husband John James said: “Although we have now settled the case with the NHS Trust, this was never about the money, we just wanted the hospital staff to take responsibility for what happened. We are relieved that changes have been made and we just hope that by taking legal action it will ensure that lessons are learned and that others will not suffer from similar failures in future.”

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Birth Injuries Compensation Case Resolved at Supreme Court

A landmark birth injuries compensation case against the NHS has been resolved at the Supreme Court in London in favour of a mother and her severely disabled child.

Sam Montgomery was born at the Bellshill Maternity Hospital on October 1st 1999, having been deprived of oxygen during his delivery. Sam´s problems started when his shoulder became trapped in his mother´s birth canal after the delivery of his head. Sam suffered shoulder dystocia and – after a 12-minute procedure to release his shoulder – he had to be resuscitated.

The deprivation of oxygen during the release procedure caused Sam to suffer brain damage and he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Now, at age 15, Sam has limited communication skills and still suffers from the nerve damage he sustained during his delivery – which affects his shoulder, arm and hand.

On Sam´s behalf, his mother – Nadine – made a claim for medical negligence compensation against NHS Lanarkshire. Nadine alleged in her claim that her consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist – Dr Dina McLellan – had failed to warn her of the risks associated with a natural birth when Nadine was a petite woman with Type 1 diabetes.

When the birth injuries compensation case went to the Outer House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the court heard that women with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to have bigger babies and that Nadine had expressed concerns during her pregnancy about delivering the baby safely. The court also heard that Nadine was not given the option of a Caesarean Section birth despite a CTG trace showing the size of her son.

In their defence of the birth injuries compensation case, lawyers representing NHS Lanarkshire said that the consultant´s duty to advise the risks involved in a natural delivery would have been triggered if there was a high probability of a grave adverse outcome. As there was only a 9%-10% of shoulder dystocia occurring, Dr McLellan chose not to advise Nadine of the risks.

Despite Nadine testifying that she would have chosen a Caesarean Section procedure over a natural birth if she had been advised of the risks, the Outer House of the Court of Session found in the consultant´s favour, as did the Inner House when Nadine appealed the verdict. Undeterred, Nadine took her birth injuries compensation case to the Supreme Court in London, where Dr McLellan told the court that, in her view, it was “not in the maternal interests for women to have Caesarean Sections”.

The Supreme Court judges disagreed with the consultant and said that social and legal developments “point away from the relationship between the doctor and patient based on medical paternalism”. The judges ruled that Dr McLellan was wrong to put her personal views ahead of the course of treatment that Nadine underwent and ruled that a doctor has a duty of reasonable care to ensure that patient is aware of any material risks involved in any recommended treatment.

Lord Kerr and Lord Reed – the judges who delivered the Supreme Court´s verdict – commented “There can be no doubt that it was incumbent on Dr McLellan to advise Mrs Montgomery of the risk of shoulder dystocia if she were to have her baby by vaginal delivery, and to discuss with her the alternative of delivery by caesarean section.”

The Supreme Court awarded Nadine £5.25 million compensation for the birth injuries that Sam had suffered and said it would be a mistake to view patients in the modern world as “uninformed, incapable of understanding medical matters or wholly dependent upon a flow of information from doctors”.

The decision by the Supreme Court is significant as it acknowledges a patient´s right to decide upon the level of risk they wish to take given all the information available. It means that patients will have to be provided with information about possible alternative treatments and their risk factors before being considered to have given their “informed consent” prior to undergoing a medical procedure.

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