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.”