UK Failure to Diagnose

In the UK, the failure to diagnose an injury or illness in a timely manner is one of the leading motives for making medical negligence compensation claims. However, not every compensation claim for the failure to diagnose is successful due to two factors – negligence and injury.

Failure to diagnose compensation claims have to show that “at the time and in the circumstances” a medical professional displayed a lack of skill that deviated from the accepted standard of care in the medical community. If it can be shown that another medical professional would have made the same misdiagnosis when presented with the facts of your case, a claim for the failure to diagnose may not be successful.

A failure to diagnose compensation claim also has to demonstrate that you suffered an avoidable injury or the significant deterioration in an existing condition. If, for example, a misdiagnosis or a late diagnosis would have resulted in the same outcome as if the correct diagnosis had been made, a claim for the failure to diagnose will not be successful. This is because although medical negligence has undoubtedly occurred, your health has not deteriorated any more than it would have as a result.

In order to establish negligence and injury, your solicitor would request access to your medical records and then have the records examined by an independent expert. If the expert concurs that the failure to diagnose resulted in an adverse event, then your solicitor will advise you on the process for making medical negligence compensation claims against the medical facility or individual responsible.

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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Hearing Continues in Claim for Negligent Spinal Abscess Treatment

A hearing at the London High Court to determine the outcome of a claim for negligent spinal abscess treatment is set to continue for the rest of the week.

The claim was brought following a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of a spinal abscess in 2009 at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. The claimant – who cannot be named for legal reasons – is paralysed from the waist down due to the delay, is confined to a wheelchair and requires round-the-clock care.

The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability for the error, but are disputing how much the claim for negligent spinal abscess treatment should be settled for. Lawyers representing the NHS Trust argued in court that most of the costs for caring for the fifty-year-old claimant are the result of drug abuse since his teens – costs that the NHS Trust argues should not be their responsibility.

The claimant´s lawyer values the claim for negligent spinal abscess treatment at £3.4 million, but the NHS Trust says that its contribution to the man´s future care should be less than £1 million. The NHS Trust´s lawyers told the court that, since his confinement to a wheelchair, the claimant has continued his “chaotic” lifestyle and maintains the company of drug addicts and other “undesirable characters”.

The NHS´ lawyers also argued that it was the claimant´s responsibility to kick his drug habit and that it was a matter of public policy why the compensation being claimed should be dramatically reduced. In response, the claimant´s lawyers told the court that his client has a dependency disorder and it would be wrong to deny him the compensation necessary to support him and manage his disability.

The judge presiding over the case ordered that, due to the claimant´s vulnerability, nothing should be published that might identify him. The claim for negligent spinal abscess treatment has been scheduled for seven days and is expected to continue for the rest of this week.

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Woman Alleges Failure to Investigate the Symptoms of Cervical Cancer

A woman has instructed solicitors to investigate whether she is entitled to compensation for the failure to investigate the symptoms of cervical cancer.

Tayne Eaton (25) from Ipswich first started displaying the symptoms of cervical cancer in the summer of 2013. She visited her GP on several occasions complaining of bleeding and pain but, at the time, Tayne was too young to automatically qualify for the NHS´s screening test.

Tayne´s symptoms worsened following the birth of her son in September 2014, but she was not sent for a smear test until March 2015 – when a tumour of almost 9cm was discovered. Tayne underwent chemotherapy treatment and has had several other operations – including a hysterectomy – to stop the cancer from spreading.

Now Tayne has instructed solicitors to investigate whether she is entitled to compensation for the failure to investigate the symptoms of cervical cancer. She believes that the condition was not considered by her GP because of her age; and, had she been sent for a smear test earlier, she would not have required such invasive treatment and would be able to have more children in the future.

Tayne claims that had there not been a failure to investigate the symptoms of cervical cancer by her GP, the diagnosis would have been made earlier, and her prognosis would have substantially improved. She said: “I knew something was seriously wrong but I just seemed to go from test to test without anyone really knowing what was happening.”

Speaking about the alleged failure to investigate the symptoms of cervical cancer, Tayne´s solicitor added: “Cervical cancer is a treatable disease with a good long term prognosis when it is diagnosed early, but delays can have terrible consequences. Any symptoms should not be dismissed; it is vital that women know what to look out for and take medical advice but, equally, that doctors pay attention to their concerns”.

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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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Widow Makes Claim for a Wrongful Death due to an Ambulance Delay

The widow of a man who died from meningitis after waiting six hours for her husband to be taken to hospital is making a claim for a wrongful death due to an ambulance delay.

On 5th January this year, Lisa Armitage called the NHS 111 service worried about the condition of her husband Mthuthuzeli Mpongwana (37), who was complaining of a headache, fever and difficulty focusing in bright lights.

The 111 clinician recognised that Mthuthuzeli may be displaying the symptoms of meningitis and summoned an ambulance. However, the rapid response unit took three hours to arrive, during which time Mthuthuzeli became confused and delirious, and his skin turned grey.

The paramedic failed to recognise the symptoms of meningitis and downgraded the ambulance response to the lowest priority – meaning that an ambulance to take Mthuthuzeli from the couple´s home in Bedminster to the Bristol Royal Infirmary failed to arrive for another three hours.

When Mthuthuzeli was eventually admitted to hospital, his eyes were bulging and he had lost control of his limbs. He was taken straight to the resuscitation room, where he suffered a stroke and his brain began to swell. Lisa was told there was nothing more that could be done to save her husband, and Mthuthuzeli died when he was taken off life support on January 7th.

The inquest into Mthuthuzeli´s death found that he had died from natural causes “contributed to by a failure to take appropriate action”. The coroner said that a priority one back up ambulance should have been summoned when the rapid response unit had first arrived at the family home, and that benzo penicillin should have been administered. According to the coroner, the inappropriate level of care “resulted in a missed opportunity to render medical treatment”.

Following the inquest and a the results of a Serious Incident Report, in which failings were identified in the standard of care provided by the South West Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, Lisa contacted solicitors and made a claim for a wrongful death due to an ambulance delay. It is not yet known whether the NHS Trust will accept liability without further legal action.

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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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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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Hospital Ordered to Pay Compensation for Failing to Treat Sepsis

A Hospital has been ordered to pay compensation for failing to treat sepsis to the son of a woman who died three weeks after being admitted with the condition.

In March 2014, the woman – who was only identified as “Mrs A” – suffered a cardiac arrest and died at Cardiff´s University Hospital of Wales, three weeks after being admitted with sepsis – a life-threatening condition that is triggered by an infection and that can result in a decrease in blood pressure, affecting the supply of blood to organs such as the brain, kidneys and heart.

Following a complaint by the woman´s son, the Ombudsman conducted an investigation and found a series of errors in her treatment. These included the failure to be assessed by a doctor for more than three hours, followed by a six-hour delay in administering antibiotics to treat the condition. The Ombudsman also found the hospital failed to follow record keeping and complaint handling procedures.

Describing the treatment that the seventy-nine year old woman had received as “inadequate”, the Ombudsman – Nick Bennet – upheld the complaint by her son that she had been misdiagnosed and her illness was mismanaged. He ordered the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to apologise to the son and to pay £4,000 compensation for failing to treat sepsis.

The Executive Nurse Director of the Cardiff and Vale Health Board – Ruth Walker – accepted that the hospital could have improved several aspects of the care provided for the woman and agreed to the award of compensation for failing to treat sepsis. She said that the hospital would implement the recommendations made by the Ombudsman and added:

“The health board recognises the risks posed by sepsis and we have been working hard to raise awareness amongst all staff of the symptoms and steps to take to help save lives. We will continue to build on these efforts and share this sad story with all our colleagues to help avoid it happening again.”

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Claim for the Failure to Diagnose Hypoglycaemia Resolved at High Court

A claim for the failure to diagnose hypoglycaemia was resolved yesterday at the High Court with claimant securing a lifetime care settlement.

Ben Harman was born at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in April 2002, underweight and floppy due to extremely low blood sugar levels. Despite displaying the symptoms of low blood sugar levels, staff at the hospital failed to perform the blood glucose tests that should have been conducted under NHS protocol until two days after his birth, allowing Ben´s condition to deteriorate further.

Ben was administered dextrose once his condition had been identified but, when he was discharged on 17th April 2002, his parents were not told that he had potentially suffered a hypoglycaemic injury or what its consequences were. Consequently, when Ben failed to develop as quickly as his older brother had, his parents were concerned but attributed his disabilities to one of life´s cruelties.

After Ben was diagnosed with autism in 2006, his parents applied for a blue handicapped badge for their car. It was only when they were asked to support the application with medical evidence that they became aware of the medical negligence that had caused their son´s brain damage. They sought legal advice and made a claim for the failure to diagnose hypoglycaemia on behalf of their son.

The East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust initially denied its liability for Ben´s devastating injuries, and continued to do so until July 2013. Thereafter, the NHS Trust would not agree to any settlement package proposed by the family´s solicitors – suggesting instead that Ben would better served by a life in institutional care. Consequently the claim for the failure to diagnose hypoglycaemia went to the High Court to be resolved.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Turner rejected the argument that Ben should spend the rest of his life in institutional care and ordered the NHS Trust to pay for Ben´s fees at a specialist boarding school – Prior’s Court in Hermitage, Berkshire. His parents will take over responsibility for his care when Ben is twenty-five years of age.

The final settlement of the family´s claim for the failure to diagnose hypoglycaemia will be announced shortly. It will consist of a lump sum payment so that Ben´s parents can adopt their home in order to make it suitable for when Ben visits at weekends, and annual index-linked payments so that Ben is assured of the care that he needs for the rest of his life.

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