UK Failure to Treat

Among the most frequent reasons for medical negligence claims in the UK is the failure to treat or the failure to act. The two events have their minor differences, as a failure to treat could be attributable to a misdiagnosis or the failure to identify the seriousness of a condition, whereas a failure to act usually comes after the risk of an injury is identified and preventative measures are delayed.

Both events often have similar outcomes – that the health of patient deteriorates in avoidable circumstances – and both are sufficient cause to make medical negligence compensation claims. However, it still has to be proven that the failure to treat or the failure to act resulted in an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition “at the time and in the circumstances”.

It also has to be proven that an injury would not have occurred or the health of the patient would not have deteriorated had appropriate treatment been administered in a timely manner. In order to ascertain that an injury has been caused by medical negligence, a solicitor will request your authorisation to review your medical records.

Any avoidable delay in administering treatment will be noted, and a complaint made to the medical facility (clinic, hospital, GP, etc.). Once liability has been acknowledged, your solicitor will enter into negotiations to settle your claim for the failure to treat for the maximum amount to which you are entitled to account for your pain and suffering, any loss in life expectancy and loss of income.

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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Hospital Admits Mistakes Were Made in Claim for Negligent Prolapse Treatment

A hospital has admitted mistakes were made and made an interim compensation payment in partial settlement of a claim for negligent prolapse treatment.

In November 2012, Diana Birch (69) – a former paediatrician and charity director – attended the Royal Free Hospital in London to undergo a rectoplasty procedure to treat a prolapsed bowel. Unfortunately the procedure was not entirely successful and, in December 2013, Diana was readmitted to the hospital for a key-hole rectoplexy.

On recovering from the second procedure, Diana found she had lost feeling in her lower back and left leg, and was unable to stand. An MRI scan revealed that her left femoral nerve had been damaged during the rectoplexy procedure, but the hospital failed to respond to the injury – resulting in Diana suffering further damage to her ureter and having to have one of her kidneys removed.

After seeking legal advice, Diana made a claim for negligent prolapse treatment against the Royal Free London NHA Foundation Trust, alleging that her injury was caused by surgical negligence and exacerbated by the hospital´s failure to act once the injury was discovered. Diana claimed that with earlier intervention, she may have recovered from the paralysis, but due to a second instance of medical negligence that opportunity has now passed.

The Royal Free Hospital investigated Diana´s claim for negligent prolapse treatment and has now admitted mistakes were made and liability for her injury. An interim payment of compensation has been made in partial settlement of her claim for negligent prolapse treatment while reports are being compiled into her future needs. The final settlement should allow Diana to complete rehabilitation therapy and provide her with the equipment she needs to live as independently as possible.

Diana told newspaper reporters: “This has changed my life completely and three years on I am still trying to come to terms with what has happened to me and what could have been done to prevent it or correct it before it was too late. My greatest wish now is that lessons can be learned from what has happened to me so that no one else has their life turned upside-down as I have.”

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Parents to Receive Compensation for Failings in Community Psychiatric Care

The parents of a woman, who died from complications related to malnourishment, is to receive £7,500 compensation for failings in community psychiatric care.

In September 2012, Ruth Mitchell (40) was found dead on the floor of her flat in Plymouth due to complications related to malnourishment. The single mother had been under the care of Livewell Southwest (formerly Plymouth Community Healthcare) at the time, and was discovered in “squalid and impoverished conditions” with no furniture, curtains or floor coverings.

An investigation into Ruth´s death found that there had been a failure to formally review her situation in 2011 despite concerns about her “deteriorating self-care”, that Plymouth Community Healthcare had failed to assess Ruth for vulnerable adult status, and that a community psychiatric nurse´s response to Ruth´s deteriorating condition “did not go far enough”.

Ruth´s parents – Russell and Anne – complained to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman about the standard of care that had been provided for their daughter. The Ombudsman partially upheld their complaints – its report concluding: “There is not enough evidence for us to say whether Ruth’s death could have been avoided if she had received appropriate care, but opportunities to prevent her deterioration and death were completely lost.”

As a consequence of the report, Russell and Anne will receive £7,500 compensation for failings in community psychiatric care, while the nurse responsible for Ruth´s wellbeing – Joanne Campbell – faces a disciplinary hearing for the failure to maintain adequate records over a four year period and the failure to escalate safeguarding concerns, causing an “unwarranted risk” to a patient.

Speaking with the BBC after his claim for compensation for failings in community psychiatric care had been resolved, Russell Mitchell said: “Nothing can compensate for the loss of a child. We only really started this because we wanted someone to say sorry. My wife was particularly moved because she felt that Ruth couldn’t be the only one. We know it won’t bring our daughter back but it might help someone else’s daughter.”

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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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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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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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Claim for the Failure to Treat Post-Surgery Complications Resolved Out of Court

A family is to receive a six-figure settlement of compensation in resolution of its claim for the failure to treat post-surgery complications.

On 28th April 2009, Tracy Hall (38) from Castleford in West Yorkshire underwent elective surgery for the reversal of a stoma at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. The surgery lasted nine hours, after which Tracy – who was diagnosed with Crohn´s disease in 1996 – suffered complications including internal bleeding and an infection.

Tracy´s wound opened several times and had to be washed out to prevent further infections, but her condition continued to deteriorate. On 4th May doctors noticed a significant amount of blood in her stoma bag. She was returned to theatre, where it was discovered that an artery had been cut and her abdominal wall had burst.

Following further surgery, Tracy – who had suffered with abdominal pain and lost nearly three stone in weight in the months prior to the surgery – was transferred to the hospital´s High Dependency Unit, where she was sedated and put on a life support machine. Tragically she died eight days later from multiple organ failure caused by sepsis.

Tracy´s husband instructed medical negligence solicitors to investigate the level of care his wife had received, and subsequently made a claim for the failure to treat post-surgery complications against the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust when it was discovered that there had be a delay in identifying and treating the complications.

It was also admitted by the NHS Trust that the surgery should have been delayed because Tracy´s Crohn´s disease was particularly active at the time. Tracy´s husband and the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust agreed on a six-figure settlement of the claim for the failure to treat post-surgery complications, after which Tracy´s mother, Carol, said:

“We have been completely heartbroken since losing Tracy – it was incredibly difficult for the whole family to see her suffer like she did and deteriorate so quickly in front of our eyes. We never imagined that just two weeks after surgery she would no longer be with us. I just hope that this doesn’t happen to any other families and that the NHS Trust learns from its mistakes.”

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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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Undisclosed Settlement of Compensation for Burns due to a Lack of Care

A family has received an undisclosed settlement of compensation for burns due to a lack of care after their elderly mother was injured in a bathroom accident.

On 15th February 2012, ninety-year-old Jessie King was visited at her Rotherham home by two carers who came around daily to help Jessie out of bed and to take her to the bathroom for a shower. On this particular day, Jessie fell while preparing for her shower and landed with her back against a radiator.

The two carers contacted a home care services provider – Rothercare – to assist them after Jessie´s fall, but failed to consider that the radiator against which Jessie was leaning was still on. When specialists from Rothercare arrived, Jessie was helped to her feet. She finished her shower while the two carers prepared her breakfast and then left.

It was not until later that day that Jessie´s injury was discovered. Jessie was visited by her daughter Denise and a District Nurse, who arranged for an ambulance to take Jessie to the Northern General Hospital. At the hospital, Jessie was referred to the burns unit, where she had to undergo skin grafts as the burns on her back were so severe.

As Jessie suffers from dementia, a claim for compensation for burns due to a lack of care was made by another of her daughters – Jean – on her behalf. The claim was made against Nestor Primecare Services Ltd trading as Saga Home Care, as it was the company that employed the two carers who had failed to consider that Jessie had fallen against the radiator in the bathroom.

Nestor Primecare Services Ltd denied liability for Jessie´s injuries but, after pressure from Jean´s solicitors, the company agreed to an out-of-court settlement of compensation for burns due to a lack of care. Sadly Jessie passed away in May 2013.

Speaking after the settlement of compensation for burns due to a lack of care, another of Jessie´s daughters said: “The injuries mum suffered were absolutely horrendous and we can’t believe that her carers failed to notice she was lying against a hot radiator and that she had suffered severe burns. We are absolutely shocked that Nestor Primecare Services Ltd has continued to deny liability for the injuries and that they have never apologised for what happened.”

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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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