UK Emergency Room Medical Negligence

It is understandable how emergency room medical negligence can occur. Emergency rooms or hospital accident and emergency departments are chaotic places with injured patients and concerned companions often waiting long periods of time to receive medical attention.

Mistakes in accident and emergency departments are commonplace – with misdiagnoses, surgical errors, errors with blood transfusions and premature discharges being the most common causes of patients sustaining an avoidable injury or deterioration of an existing condition.

Nonetheless, if you have suffered an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition, it may be possible to claim compensation for emergency room medical negligence. In order to be successful, your claim must show that “at the time and in the circumstances” the standard of treatment you receive was below the generally accepted standard of care, and that you suffered an injury as a direct result.

In order to support your claim for emergency room medical negligence, your solicitor will request access to your medical records. Your medical records will be reviewed by an independent medical expert to ascertain if “on the balance of probability” your injury could have been avoided with greater care. If so, you will be able to make a compensation claim for emergency room medical negligence.

To find out more about claiming compensation for emergency room medical negligence, it is advisable to speak with a solicitor at the first practical opportunity. Your solicitor will listen to the circumstances of the negligent treatment in the accident and emergency department, and then advise you whether you have an emergency room compensation claim which is worth your while to pursue.

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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Liability Admitted in Claim for A&E Medical Negligence

An NHS Trust has admitted liability in a claim for A&E medical negligence made by a woman permanently disabled due to a misdiagnosis of cauda equina syndrome.

On 2nd June 2011, Michelle Turner (41) woke up with intense sciatica pain in her legs. Her condition deteriorated throughout the day and – barely able to stand – she attended the Accident & Emergency department of the Royal Berkshire Hospital later that evening. Doctors at the A&E department failed to conduct a thorough investigation of Michelle´s condition, and sent her home with a prescription for the muscle relaxant diazepam.

Three days later, Michelle noticed that she had wet herself while out on a walk with her partner and four children. She phoned her GP, who recognised the symptoms of cauda equina syndrome – a serious condition caused by the compression of the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord. The GP told Michelle to return to the A&E department, where she was admitted and underwent surgery the same day.

Despite the delay between initially attending the A&E department and undergoing surgery being just three days, Michelle is permanently disabled and incontinent. She can only walk with the support of crutches, and the condition has left Michelle “a former shadow of herself” and resulted in the breakup of a twelve-year relationship. In addition to her disability, she is on a pain management course to help her cope with day-to-day living.

After seeking legal advice, Michelle made a claim for A&E medical negligence – alleging that if the doctors in the A&E department had investigated her condition thoroughly, given her an MRI scan, a pin prick test or a rectal examination – all standard procedures for a suspected spinal condition – she would have undergone surgery sooner and not suffered such devastating consequences.

Following an investigation, the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability and issued Michelle with an apology “deeply regretting” the standard of care she received. Michelle´s solicitors are now in negotiations with the NHS Trust to settle her claim for A&E medical negligence based on the long-term care and equipment she will need to cope with her disabilities.

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Value of Claim for the Failure to Remove an Appendix Contested by NHS

The NHS is contesting the value of a claim for the failure to remove an appendix, made by a woman who was left infertile when her appendix burst.

In 2008, Sarah Marquis visited her GP complaining of severe abdominal pain. Sarah was admitted to Homerton Hospital in East London, where doctors treated her with painkillers for three days and overlooked that Sarah needed an emergency operation to remove her appendix. When the appendix was eventually removed, it was “gangrenous and perforated” and had burst – causing a severe abdominal infection that left Sarah infertile.

Due to her illness, Sarah took the next three-and-a-half years off from her £65,000 per year job with top London lawyer firm DLA Piper. She made a claim for the failure to remove an appendix in a timely manner against the Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The NHS Trust admitted liability for her injuries, but disputed the £1.5 million compensation Sarah was claiming – arguing that the value of her claim for the failure to remove an appendix was closer to £300,000.

The case is currently being heard at the High Court in London, where Judge Robert Owen QC was told that Sarah had to forgo opportunities to live and work in the USA because of the consequences of the hospital´s negligence. It was claimed that her earnings would have been considerably higher in the States, and that her dream of naturally conceiving a child with her partner had been taken away from her.

The NHS Trust´s barrister – Bradley Martin – read out an apology to Sarah in which it was acknowledged that hospital negligence had been responsible for her injuries. However, Mr Martin then questioned whether Sarah´s “burning desire” to have children would have overridden her desire to progress her career in the USA – or vice versa – and contested that she would have had one or the other of her desires come true – but not both.

The hearing into the contested claim for the failure to remove an appendix continues.

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Patient Awarded Compensation for the Failure to Assess a Head Wound

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in North Wales has been told to pay an Anglesey woman £1,000 compensation for the failure to assess a head wound.

On May 26th 2013, the woman identified only as “Mrs A” fell down a flight of steps at her Anglesey home. She was taken to the Ysbyty Gwynedd Hospital by ambulance with a head wound and possible injury to her neck.

Medical staff at the hospital´s accident and emergency department noted a small laceration to the back of her head, but they focused their attention on her possible neck injury. When no serious injury was identified, the woman was given a neck collar and discharged.

On June 1st, the woman attended the Ysbyty Penrhos Stanley Hospital in Holyhead as she was concerned that the head wound had opened. An out-of-hours GP dressed the wound, but noted that it was possibly infected and “Mrs A” remained under the care of a district nurse for another month.

Her husband wrote a letter to the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, complaining about the failure to assess his wife´s head wound. Unfortunately, the Health Board did not reply to the complaint until the following January – the reply claiming that the standard of care received by “Mrs A” was appropriate.

Dissatisfied by the response, Mrs A´s husband then complained to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. The Ombudsman conducted an investigation and found that, although there was no evidence the wound had become infected, there were shortcomings in the recommended procedure for managing acute trauma cases.

The Ombudsman was also critical of the Health Board´s response time, which was described as “frankly woeful”. The Ombudsman recommended the Health Board pay Mrs A £1,000 compensation for the failure to assess a head wound – £200 for the undue delay in its initial response, £300 for the subsequent delay and £500 for the extra pain and discomfort she suffered.

Commenting on the award of compensation for the failure to assess a head wound, a spokesperson for the Health Board said: “We use the Ombudsman’s reports to learn from and improve our services and any recommendations will be actioned appropriately.”

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Concern over Increase in Medical Negligence Claims in Northern Ireland

An increase in medical negligence claims in Northern Ireland threatens to swallow up addition funding allocated to the province´s healthcare service.

Concerns that £47.6 million of addition healthcare funding will be used to settle medical negligence claims in Northern Ireland have been raised by Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, following the revelation that 752 new claims had been made against the health service in the year to April 2015.

The figures from the Department of Health also showed that £41.3 million was spent by the health service on medical negligence claims in Northern Ireland – with £30.1 million being paid out in compensation and the balance going towards legal costs and expert witnesses.

Ms Dobson – who is the Ulster Unionist spokesperson for health and agriculture – told reporters “Given the worryingly high £41.3 million cost of medical negligence cases last year, and the potential for higher costs this year, I am concerned that this new funding had already been swallowed up by the health service before it was even announced.”

During 2014/2015, there was an average of 3,061 claims being processed – an 11.3% increase compared to five years ago. The majority of the medical negligence claims in Northern Ireland related to treatment issues, misdiagnoses and incorrect tests results, or the failure to act on test results. Other complaints concerned surgical errors, negligence during childbirth and the lack of support received by patients in care.

Earlier this year, Rory McShane – Peter Walsh – the chief executive of the Action against Medical Accidents charity – said that the National Health Service should give higher priority to avoiding the lapses in patient safety in the first place, and avoiding legal costs as much as possible by admitting liability earlier. It currently takes an average of two-and-a-half years for medical negligence claims in Northern Ireland to be resolved.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The department is committed to providing high quality, safe and effective health and social care services to all patients and clients across Northern Ireland. The treatment and care provided to the overwhelming majority of people is of the highest quality. On occasions, things do go wrong and when they do, it is right that people are compensated appropriately.”

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Family Settle Claim for a Lack of Medical Care at a Birmingham Hospital

A family has settled its compensation claim for a lack of medical care at a Birmingham Hospital following their son´s death due to brain damage.

On 31st December 2009, Ross Askew (33) from Selly Oak in the West Midlands started to suffer abdominal pains. He attended the Selly Oak Hospital the following day, and was transferred to Birmingham´s Queen Elizabeth Hospital after being diagnosed with severe necrotising pancreatitis.

During the admissions process, Ross – who was already undergoing treatment for a recurring brain tumour – started to vomit bile, which blocked his respirator. Unable to breath, Ross suffered acute respiratory failure and went into cardiac arrest.

Due to being starved of oxygen, Ross suffered a significant brain injury. He was transferred to the specialist rehabilitation unit in April 2010, and discharged into the care of his family the following August. Tragically, Ross died on 10th October 2011 after being readmitted to hospital for treatment on his brain tumour.

Ross´s devastated mother – Carol – sought legal advice, and made a compensation claim for a lack of medical care at a Birmingham hospital. Carol alleged in her legal action that the care provided during Ross´s admission to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was sub-standard and responsible for his death.

The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust denied liability for Ross´s death, and argued that the treatment he received during the admissions process was unrelated to the cause of his death. Nonetheless, an undisclosed settlement of compensation was negotiated between the parties without an admission of liability.

Speaking after the compensation claim for a lack of medical care at a Birmingham hospital had been resolved, Carol Askew told her local press:

“We are bitterly disappointed that the Trust did not accept responsibility for the failings in his treatment. After he suffered the brain injury in early 2010, Ross needed 24-hour care as he wasn’t able to move independently or look after himself. We are devastated that he was taken away from us so suddenly and it is incredibly difficult for us to come to terms with.”

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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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Woman Awarded €140,000 Compensation for a Swab Left Inside

A woman from Dublin has been awarded €140,000 compensation for a swab left inside her after giving birth and the subsequent lack of care she received.

On 24th December 2012, Clare Lalor (30) from Swords in County Dublin gave birth to a healthy child after a difficult labour. Clare was discharged from the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin on 27th December, but returned twice on 2nd January and 9th January due to a pain in her lower abdomen and a terrible smell around her lower body.

On neither of her return visits was Clare examined internally and, on her second return visit, doctors prescribed her antibiotics. It was only on a third visit the following week – by which time the smell had become unbearable – that Clare was examined internally and when it was discovered that a vaginal swab had been left inside during the delivery process.

The swab was removed, but two days later Clare attended the National Maternity Hospital once again suffering from sweating, diarrhoea, chills and a fever. She was temporarily admitted to the hospital for treatment, but then discharged later that day when her symptoms were attributed to post-natal depression.

After she returned home, Clare´s condition deteriorated and her partner took her to the Beaumont Hospital. At the Beaumont Hospital, Clare´s condition was diagnosed as C.difficile – a digestive bacterial infection that had developed due to Clare being unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics at the National Maternity Hospital.

When she was feeling better, Clare sought legal advice and claimed compensation for a swab left inside her – the negligent event that had triggered her illness. The National Maternity Hospital conceded the error, and that the negligent event had resulted in significant discomfort and the C.difficle infection Clare had contracted as a result of the unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics.

However, the National Maternity Hospital contested the extent of psychological injury the was included in Clare´s claim, and argued that her emotional trauma was attributable to post-natal depression rather than any adjustment disorder caused by the swab being left inside her. As no acceptable settlement of compensation for a swab left inside could be negotiated, the case proceeded to the High Court in Dublin for an assessment of damages.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross accepted the hospital´s testimony that a difficult labour preceding the birth of Claire´s child made it more likely that she would suffer from post-natal depression, and that the symptoms of her alleged psychological injury had some origin in her underlying disposition.

However, the Judge Cross ruled that, were it not for the admitted negligence of the National Maternity Hospital, Claire would have recovered from post-natal depression quicker than she had done and would not have the level of psychological injury that she was currently suffering from. Judge Cross found in Clare´s favour and awarded her €140,000 compensation for a swab left inside.

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Settlement of Claim for Birth Injuries due to an Undiagnosed Antepartum Haemorrhage

A judge at Dublin High Court has approved the final settlement of a compensation claim for birth injuries due to an undiagnosed antepartum haemorrhage.

Marlis Flood had a medical history of antepartum haemorrhaging prior to attending the Rotunda Hospital on March 30th 2006 complaining of an abdominal pain. Marlis – who was near her delivery date – was admitted into the hospital, but discharged three days later.

On April 3rd, Marlis returned to the hospital again complaining about her pain, but was sent home – only to return the following day when her pain got worse. An examination revealed that Marlis was dilated, she was admitted and her daughter Caoimhe was born later that evening.

However, due to an alleged failure to address Marlis´ concerns about abdominal pains when she had a history of antepartum haemorrhaging, and an alleged avoidable delay in delivering her child, Caoimhe suffered hypoxia in the womb and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was born.

For the first year of her life, Caoimhe had to be fed via a tube and will she will require full-time care for the rest of her life as she is a spastic quadriplegic. On her daughter´s behalf, Marlis made a claim for birth injuries due to an undiagnosed antepartum haemorrhage against the Rotunda Hospital.

Liability for Caoimhe´s birth injuries was denied; but in 2012, the hospital agreed to a €1.3 million interim settlement of compensation without an admission of liability. This week, the claim for birth injuries due to an undiagnosed antepartum haemorrhage returned to Dublin High Court for a final settlement of the claim to be approved.

At the approval hearing, Mr Justice Bernard Barton was told the circumstances leading up to Caoimhe´s birth and the consequences of the hospital´s alleged negligence. The judge approved the €2.6 million final settlement of Caoimhe´s claim for birth injuries due to an undiagnosed antepartum haemorrhage, saying that he was very relieved for the Flood family that the claim had finally and completely been resolved.

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Family Claim Compensation for the Failure to Treat a Strangulated Hernia

The family of a man who died in hospital are claiming compensation for the failure to treat a strangulated hernia following a coroner´s verdict into his death.

Vincent McKeown (80) from Bennetthorpe in South Yorkshire attended the Doncaster Royal Infirmary three times in the space of four days in April 2014, complaining of stomach pain and vomiting. On the second of his two visits, Vincent underwent x-rays and had a blood test but was discharged with antibiotics after having been diagnosed with a chest infection.

Vincent returned to the hospital two days later complaining of breathing difficulties. He was sent for a CT scan, but had to be resuscitated on his way to the scan because his condition was deteriorating. It was during the resuscitation attempts that Vincent began vomiting large amounts of brown fluid, and he sadly died in front of his wife Kathleen.

An inquest into Vincent´s death found that notes accompanying the x-ray taken on his second visit to the hospital saying that there were signs consistent with an obstruction in his small bowel had not been escalated to senior staff, who discharged Vincent prematurely believing that his condition was not critical.

The coroner concluded that if Vincent had been treated appropriately on his second visit to the hospital, he would not have died due from the symptoms of his strangulated hernia. The coroner noted that the failure to identify and treat Vincent´s condition amounted to a “gross failure to provide basic care” on the hospital´s behalf.

Following the inquest into Vincent´s death, his wife Kathleen instructed solicitors to claim compensation for the failure to treat a strangulated hernia. She said: “Nothing can ever turn back the clock and bring Vincent back, but we just hope medical staff will consider everything that happened and ensure a similar situation cannot occur to others”.

The Chief Executive for Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Trust – Mike Pinkerton – commented: “We extend our sincerest sympathies and apologise for the loss suffered by Mr McKeown’s family. Following Mr McKeown’s death we began a full internal investigation and have already implemented changes”.

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