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.

Woman Receives Compensation for the Missed Diagnosis of an Ectopic Pregnancy

A woman from Wiltshire has received £15,000 compensation for the missed diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy which resulted in her becoming infertile.

The unnamed woman and her husband were trying for their third child when, in June 2012, the woman attended her GP complaining of pains to her lower abdomen and her left hand side. The GP referred her to the Early Pregnancy Unit at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, where she underwent an ultrasound scan.

The ultrasound scan revealed nothing in the womb, but the woman was called back to the hospital twice more within a week for blood tests and further ultrasound scans – the second set of blood tests indicating that her BHCG levels had increased, but not sufficiently to confirm that she was pregnant.

The woman was told that there were three possibilities – that she was having a normal pregnancy, that a miscarriage had occurred or that there was an ectopic pregnancy. The woman had two previous ectopic pregnancies – one which resulted in one fallopian tube being surgically removed and the second being successfully treated with methotrexate.

Following more scans and blood tests ten days later, the woman received a telephone call asking her to attend the hospital once again for a laparoscopy. The hospital told her that the blood tests had confirmed an ectopic pregnancy and, when she arrived at the hospital for the procedure, was told that her remaining fallopian tube could not be saved and would have to be removed.

After recovering from the procedure, the woman sought legal advice and claimed compensation for the missed diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy. In her legal action she alleged that doctors should have identified the ectopic pregnancy earlier based on her previous medical history and administered methotrexate.

This course of action, she claimed, would have eliminated the need for her second fallopian tube to be removed and allowed her to try again for a third child. The hospital acknowledged the error, and a negotiated settlement of compensation for the missed diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy was negotiated amounting to £15,000.

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Partner Awarded Compensation for the Missed Diagnosis of a Pulmonary Embolism

The partner of a man who died in hospital of “entirely avoidable circumstances” has been awarded compensation for the missed diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism.

On November 17th 2009, Terry Emmett from Wokingham in Berkshire was finding it hard to breath and he attended his GP, who prescribed diuretics. Terry´s condition deteriorated during the day and he went to the Accident and Emergency Department of the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and admitted for investigations.

Three days later, a pulmonary embolism was suspected, and Terry was administered thrombolytic treatment. However the treatment was too late to prevent a blood clot that had formed in Terry´s calf traveling up his body and blocking the main artery carrying blood to his lungs. Terry suffered a cardiac arrest and died the same day.

Terry´s partner of twenty-five years – Patricia Roriston – claimed compensation for the missed diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism. Patricia claimed in her action that if thrombolytic treatment had been administered on the day following his admission into hospital, Terry would have survived without complications.

Following an investigation by the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, liability for Terry´s wrongful death was admitted, but the NHS Trust disputed how much compensation for the missed diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism Patricia was entitled to. The NHS Trust claimed that Terry was suffering from obesity and would have been unable to return to work as an electrical engineer had he made a full recovery.

The NHS Trust´s offer of £35,000 compensation for the missed diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism was dismissed by Patricia on advice from her solicitor, and the case went to the High Court in London. At the hearing Judge Sir Robert Francis QC agreed with Patricia that Terry was a hard-working and “larger than life” character, who would have continued working and providing for his family until the day he died.

The judge awarded Patricia £200,503 compensation for the missed diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism, after which Patricia commented: The family do not see this award as a victory as nothing can bring Terry back but we are pleased that Judge Francis’ decision has finally brought justice for Terry.”

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Settlement of Compensation for the Failure to Spot a Detached Retina Agreed

A woman has agreed to a settlement of compensation for the failure to spot a detached retina that resulted in her losing the sight in her left eye.

The woman identified only as “Ms S” is a diabetes sufferer who, prior to 2008, had undergone two successful operations for cataracts. As she noticed her vision was failing in her left eye in November 2009, she visited an optometrist, who prescribed glasses.

The glasses failed to resolve the problem in the woman´s left eye and “Ms S” visited her GP in December 2009, who prescribed eye drops. She was seen by a different GP a week later, who referred her to an ophthalmic specialist after noticing a cloudiness on the lens of her left eye.

While she was waiting for an appointment to see the ophthalmic specialist, “Ms S” completely lost the vision in her left eye. On 29th December she telephoned her GP, who made an urgent referral for her to attend a specialist eye hospital.

At the hospital, “Ms S” was informed that her loss of vision was attributable to a detached retina in her left eye that had occurred some three to four weeks previously and which was, by that point, inoperable.

“Ms S” sought legal advice and claimed compensation for the failure to spot a detached retina after it was shown that, had she receive competent medical attention at the beginning of December, the sight in her left eye could have been saved.

It was also discovered during the course of her solicitor´s investigations that one of the GPs “Ms S” had seen had altered her medical notes retrospectively. Liability for the woman´s loss of sight in her left eye was admitted by the GP surgery, and a substantial five-figure settlement of compensation for the failure to spot a detached retina was agreed.

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Husband Makes Claim for the Misdiagnosis of Cervical Cancer

The husband of a woman who died after giving birth to the couple´s second child has made a claim for the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer

Louisa Foster from Granborough in Buckinghamshire had a routine smear test at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 2008 and was told that the results were normal. In 2010, she underwent IVF treatment to help with the conception of her second child.

Shortly after her son was born on 1st December 2010, Louisa started to experience abdominal pain and discomfort, but – on returning to Stoke Mandeville on several occasions – was told that her symptoms were attributable to the Caesarean Section she had or due to an infection.

Depending on which junior doctor she saw, Louise was prescribed antibiotics or told to go home and take a paracetamol; and it was not until April 2011 that she finally saw a specialist who diagnosed her with an advanced cervical tumour.

Louisa underwent two years of treatment for the cancer at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford – including intensive chemoradiotherapy and a hysterectomy – but she never recovered from the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer and died in June 2013 aged 35.

After seeking legal advice, Louisa´s widow – Graeme – made a claim for the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer. In his claim, Graeme alleged that doctors ignored the fact that his wife was losing weight rapidly or said that it was due to her breast feeding her son.

Graeme said that the couple had persevered to get a correct diagnosis because their first child had been born by Caesarean Section, and Louisa knew that the symptoms she was experiencing were not right. He hopes that by making a claim for the misdiagnosis of cervical cancer against the Buckingham Healthcare NHS Trust, the mistakes that were made in Louisa´s treatment will not be repeated.

Graeme told his local paper: “It has been a long, long haul and taken a lot out of us all, but now on behalf of our children and other women who may be going through the same situation I’m hoping to get to the bottom of what happened.”

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Claim for Hydrocephalus due to Medical Negligence Resolved in Court Hearing

The High Court in Ireland has resolved a claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence in favour of a seven year old girl who suffered brain damage.

When Ava Kiernan from Duleek in County Meath was three months old in April 2008, she developed the symptoms of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) – a rapid expansion of her head´s circumference and bulges appearing as “soft spots” around her skull.

Ava was examined by a public health nurse, who failed to notice the expansion of the girl´s head or recall her for a further examination four weeks later. An incorrect measurement of Ava´s head in September 2008 also disguised the symptoms of hydrocephalus – despite concerns being raised by her mother, Ruth.

As a result of the failure to identify the symptoms of water on the brain, Ava developed permanent mental and physical disabilities. On her daughter´s behalf, Ruth Kiernan made a claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence against the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The HSE contested the claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence, and the case went to the High Court in Dublin, where it was heard over three weeks by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

Judge Cross found in Ava´s favour, ruling that if Ava had been recalled four weeks after the initial measurement of her head circumference, or if the measurement of her head in September 2008 had been conducted correctly, water on the brain would have been suspected and Ava would have been referred to a specialist.

The judge said that the public health nurse´s failure to act was “materially causative” to Ava´s mental and physical disabilities and he adjourned the claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence in order that an assessment could be conducted of Ava´s future needs to determine an appropriate compensation settlement.

Update June 2015: Ava´s case was reconvened on 9th June, when an interim settlement of compensation amounting to €2.4 million was approved by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty. The interim settlement of Ava´s claim for hydrocephalus due to medical negligence is for the next ten years, after which her condition will be re-assessed.

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Bereaved Family Claim Compensation for the Failure to Diagnose Epiglottitis

A bereaved family from Southend are claiming compensation for the failure to diagnose epiglottitis following the death of a thirty-seven year old man.

On 5th March 2014, Steven Jackson attended the Accident and Emergency Department of Southend Hospital, after a sore throat he had been experiencing for several days deteriorated to such an extent that he was finding it difficult to swallow and was having difficulty breathing.

The out-of-hours doctor that examined him prescribed Steven over the counter medication and sent him home. A few hours later, Steven´s condition deteriorated further and his lips had turned purple. His fiancée – Shelley – summoned an ambulance and paramedics treated Steven with oxygen and put him on a nebuliser.

Steven responded after an hour of treatment in his home, and the paramedics determined that he had a virus and was not ill enough to be taken to hospital. A few hours later, Steven suffered a cardiac arrest and died due to epiglottitis – an inflammation and swelling of the epiglottis behind the root of the tongue – a condition which, when accurately diagnosed, is treatable with antibiotics.

Following Steven´s tragic death, a complaint was made to East of England Ambulance Trust regarding the failure of the paramedics to take Steven to hospital.  The chief executive of the Ambulance Trust issued a letter of apology to the family, accepting that paramedics should have spotted an underlying condition and should have taken Steven to hospital for acute assessment and treatment.

Steven´s family have sought legal advice and are claiming compensation for the failure to diagnose epiglottitis. Steven’s brother-in-law Simon Watkins told his local newspaper: “We are absolutely adamant we won’t let this lie. You see more and more of these circumstances, where clinicians have let people down and to me it seems nobody does anything about it.”

“The ambulance trust has stated in its letter that failings were made including a failure to identify four separate indicators of sepsis and a failure to take a sufficient history of previous hospital attendance which led to a failure to appreciate the severity of the situation – and the decision not to take Steve to hospital.”

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Family Want Investigation into Heart Attack Death due to an Ambulance Delay

A family from Staffordshire have instructed medical negligence solicitors to investigate the heart attack death due to an ambulance delay of a 59-year-old man.

On Saturday 19th April 2014, Kathryn Corbin called the emergency services to request an ambulance for her husband, Jeff, who was suffering from chest pain and a shortness of breath. When paramedics arrived, Jeff was diagnosed as having suffered a panic attack and – advised that there was a six hour wait at the local A&E department – he declined to be taken to hospital as a non-emergency case.

The paramedics left, advising Jeff to see his GP after the weekend, but the following day Kathryn again summoned an ambulance as Jeff was gasping for breath and in intense pain. The ambulance took seventy-five minutes to arrive – during which time Jeff had suffered a fatal heart attack, and he was declared dead on arrival at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

An expert cardiologist who gave evidence at the inquest into Jeff´s death said that had Jeff been taken to hospital and received treatment when an ambulance was first called on the Saturday morning, there was a 95% chance that his condition would have been diagnosed and treated. The cardiologist added that had the ambulance arrived within 30 minutes when it was called on the Sunday, there was a 50% chance that Jeff would have survived.

Coroner Ian Smith recorded a verdict of death by natural causes; but he also commented that the paramedics who attended Jeff on the Saturday morning made the wrong decision by not taking him to hospital as an emergency – following which, Jeff´s family sought legal advice and instructed medical negligence solicitors to investigate the heart attack death due to an ambulance delay.

Commenting after the inquest, Kathryn – from Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire – said: “My children and I have been left completely devastated after losing Jeff – last year we should have celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. He was the heart of our family, a loving dad and husband and losing him has left an irreparable hole in our lives”.

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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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London Hospital Found at Fault for Avoidable Death due to Medical Negligence

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has found the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust at fault for an avoidable death due to medical negligence.        

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman was asked to investigate the death of a 62-year-old woman at Imperial College Hospital in West London, after the unnamed patient had been discharged prematurely without the expected range of tests being conducted.

The Ombudsman found that mistakes were made in assessing the woman´s condition on her initial visit to the hospital. “Avoidable” errors were identified in her diagnosis and treatment and the patient was discharged despite the tests that were conducted showing inconclusive results.

The woman subsequently returned to the Imperial College Hospital on several occasions, complaining of abdominal pain and blood in her urine. Eventually she was admitted for an exploratory operation, but she died from blood poisoning due to sepsis before surgery could take place.

The Ombudsman was critical of the woman´s avoidable death due to medical negligence, and noted that there was a failure to treat the patient with antibiotics or to control the clotting of her blood before surgery. The investigation into the avoidable death due to medical negligence also found that the hospital´s complaints handling procedure was poor.

Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “Our investigation found that because of a series of errors at a hospital a woman lost her life. Her husband told us that he has lost his best friend just before he and his wife were due to start a new life together. We hope our investigation and the action taken by the trust will reassure him that lessons have been learnt as a result of his complaint so that others are less likely to suffer the same experience.”

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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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