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.