UK Medical Negligence News

Patient Claims Compensation for an Eye Infection due to Poor Sanitation

A patient is claiming compensation for an eye infection due to poor sanitation in the treatment room that resulted in his loss of sight in one eye.

The unnamed patient attended the Ophthalmic Department of the Cheltenham General Hospital in December 2015 for an intravitreal injection – a routine procedure in which medicine is delivered close to the retina via an injection into the vitreous jelly-like area of the eye.

Soon after the treatment, the patient developed endophthalmitis – a known complication of intraocular surgery that affects the internal coats of the eye. The infection led to the patient losing his sight in the treated eye.

The patient alleged that the room in which the injection had been administered had not been properly cleaned, and that it was poor sanitation that was responsible for him contracting such a severe eye infection rather than it being a complication of his treatment.

An investigation into the patient´s allegations was undertaken – during which it was found that the area around the sink was cluttered, and that dust was present on several surfaces including the theatre light, and that trolleys were not properly dried after they had been sterilised.

It was also found during the investigation that clinicians contravened recommendations to leave antiseptic in the patients´ eyes for a minimum of three minutes before commencing treatment. After the report of the investigation was released, the patient sought legal advice and claimed compensation for an eye infection due to poor sanitation.

Negligence was admitted by the Gloucester Royal NHS Foundation Trust and negotiations have started to resolve the claim for compensation for an eye infection due to poor sanitation amid concerns that other patients may have developed eye infections due to the hospital´s negligence. Up to 9,000 intravitreal injections are administered at the Cheltenham General Hospital each year.

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Family Seeks Legal Advice about Claim for an Undiagnosed Neck Fracture

The family of a man who died after a compression of his spinal cord went unnoticed is seeking advice about making a claim for an undiagnosed neck fracture.

On 23rd May 2015, Patrick Byrne (87) was admitted to the Royal United Hospital in Bath following a fall at his home in Melksham. Shortly after his admission, Patrick´s neck dropped onto his chest and he was unable to move it.

Despite pleas from his family to investigate the issue, Patrick was discharged to the Chippenham Community Hospital in June. He was readmitted to the Royal United Hospital following a further fall, but it was not until 6th July that a scan was organised for Patrick´s neck.

The scan revealed that Patrick had fractured his neck in the fall at his home and the fracture had resulted in his spinal cord being compressed. The compression of the spinal cord caused Patrick´s paralysis from which he never recovered. Patrick sadly died at the Royal United Hospital on 21st October.

A two-day inquest into Patrick´s death at Avon Coroner´s Court returned a verdict of death by natural causes despite coroner Peter Harrowing stating that Patrick was let down by numerous medical staff who failed to carry out proper examinations or act quickly when serious signs were identified.

A catalogue of faults in Patrick´s care emerged during the inquest. Weekend staff shortages, speculative diagnostic suppositions, poor record keeping and basic deficiencies in communication were said to have communicated to Patrick´s death. However, Mr Harrowing found the hospital’s care did not reach the point of negligence as he believed the paralysis and his eventual death were not preventable.

Family Describes Coroner´s Verdict as Bizarre

Patrick´s family have described the coroner´s verdict as bizarre and have engaged medical negligence solicitors to investigate the possibility of making a claim for an undiagnosed neck fracture. Speaking after the inquest hearing, Patrick´s daughter Elizabeth told the Wiltshire Times:

“The standard of care my father received fell well below what should have been expected and, if the neck fracture had been diagnosed earlier, he could have had treatment which would have avoided the paralysis and his last months would not have been as distressing. The evidence was there. There were a lot of failures.”

The solicitor has said that he will be reviewing the coroner´s findings and reporting back to the family with regard to the practicality of making a claim for an undiagnosed neck fracture. A spokesperson on behalf of the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would once again like to offer our deepest condolences to Mr Byrne’s family at this difficult time. We acknowledge that we did not always meet our own high standards of care on this occasion and for this we apologise.”

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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.

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Settlement of Compensation for a Birth Brain Damage Injury Approved by Court

A multi-million pound settlement of compensation for a birth brain damage injury has been approved by the High Court in favour of a seven-year-old girl.

The unnamed seven-year-old girl was born at Solihull Hospital in December 2008 after medical professionals failed to notice signs of foetal distress due to the girl being starved of oxygen in her mother´s womb.

As a result of the medical negligence, the little girl is visually impaired, cannot speak and suffers from epilepsy. She attends a special school for children with disabilities, where she has learned to communicate using sounding techniques and switches.

On their daughter´s behalf, the girl´s parents claimed compensation for a birth brain damage injury against the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. The NHS Trust quickly acknowledged liability for the medical negligence responsible for girl´s injury and negotiations started to discuss a settlement.

At the High Court in London, Mr Justice Spencer heard that, despite her severe disabilities, the girl was a “delightful child”, who enjoyed going to the beach and who had won several awards for swimming. The judge praised the girl´s parents for the care and devotion they had given her.

Following the reading of an apology from the NHS Trust, Mr Justice Spencer was told the details of the settlement of compensation for a birth brain damage injury. The NHS Trust´s barrister said “the trust hoped the payout would provide financial stability and alleviate the many challenges this family has yet to face”.

The settlement consists of a £2.23 million lump sum and annual tax-free, index-linked payments of £178,000 per year – rising to £280,000 on the girl´s nineteenth birthday. The judge approved the settlement of compensation for a birth brain damage injury, commenting “she is a loving, and much loved, little girl and her parents must be very proud of her indeed” and wishing the family the very best for the future.

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Man to Receive Compensation for a Stroke due to Medical Negligence

The High Court of Justice has approved a care package and settlement of compensation for a stroke due to medical negligence in favour of a 74-year-old man.

The unnamed 74-year-old man was found to have an irregular heartbeat in February 2011 after attending the University College Hospital in London. As he had a history of heart problems – due to which he had been fitted with a stent and a pacemaker – he was prescribed warfarin.

However, due to a communications failure between medical professionals – and despite a second visit to the hospital and numerous visits to his GP – he was unable to access the anti-coagulant drug and, four months later, suffered a stroke.

The consequences of the stroke have been devastating for the man and his family. He is now fully dependant on his wife and children for simple day-to-day tasks and, in addition to his physical limitations, has also lost some of his cognitive abilities.

On the man´s behalf, his family claimed compensation for a stroke due to medical negligence against the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The NHS Trust admitted liability for the errors that led to his stroke and a settlement of compensation that includes a care package was agreed.

The settlement – estimated to be worth seven figures – was recently approved at the High Court of Justice, after which the family´s solicitor commented: “We are glad the settlement has now been approved as the family can live safe in the knowledge that their future is secure and their husband and father will be able to access the care he needs.”

He added: “Sadly, this man was simply not provided with suitable treatment and as a result suffered a severe stroke which has left him with life-changing injuries. He was unable to access the anti-coagulant medication that would have reduced his risk of suffering a stroke and the physical and mental problems he now suffers as a result”.

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High Court Approves Settlement of Compensation for Brain Damage at Birth

The High Court in London has approved a settlement of compensation for brain damage at birth in favour of a seven-year-old boy from Crawley in West Sussex.

Thomas Hord was born at the East Surrey Hospital in March 2009 by emergency Caesarean section having been deprived of oxygen in the womb for twenty minutes. As a result of the hospital´s failure to effect his delivery in a timely manner after identifying foetal distress, Thomas now suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and can only communicate with his eyes.

Despite his debilitating birth injury, Thomas attends a mainstream primary school and lives at home with his parents – Christopher and Samantha – who have three other children.

On their son´s behalf, Christopher and Samantha claimed compensation for a brain injury at birth against Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS trust. Liability for Thomas´ injuries was admitted in 2011, and a settlement of compensation was negotiated that includes a £2.5 million lump sum and annual, index-linked starting at £100,000 and rising to £245,000 when Thomas becomes an adult.

At the hearing to approve the settlement, Mr Justice Warby heard Michael Wilson – the Chief Executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust apologise for the errors in Thomas´ care and “the difficulties caused for him and his family”. Margaret Bowron – QC for the NHS Trust – praised Christopher and Samantha for all they had done for Thomas since his birth.

Approving the settlement of compensation for brain damage at birth, Mr Justice Warby echoed the QC´s words. He said: “I would like to express my admiration for the parents’ work and devotion to the care of their son, particularly in light of the pressures of work and family matters, that have no doubt made it even more difficult. The court wishes the family the very best for the future.”

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Widower Awarded Compensation for the Failure to Dispatch an Ambulance

A widower has been awarded an undisclosed settlement of compensation for the failure to dispatch an ambulance when his wife was complaining of chest pains.

On 28th December 2011, Ann Kinsey (68) returned to her home in Wolverhampton from her job at the local Waitrose supermarket complaining of chest pains. Ann´s husband, Brian, called NHS Direct (now replaced with the 111 non-emergency service) and received a call back from an out-of-hours GP. The GP advised Brian that Ann seemed to be suffering from either acid reflux or gastroenteritis.

The GP also told Brian to get Ann some antacids and pain relief tablets; but, when Brian returned from the pharmacy, he found Ann lying unresponsive on the floor. Brian immediately called 999 and, when paramedics arrived, they worked to resuscitate Ann for an hour before taking her to New Cross Hospital. At the hospital, an emergency team try to resuscitate Ann for a further thirty minutes, but without success.

Brian sought legal advice and claimed compensation for the failure to dispatch an ambulance when he first contacted NHS Direct. The NHS Direct Trust acknowledged that there had been a breach of duty in respect of the failure of the out-of-hours GP to provide the correct diagnosis and advice, but denied that dispatching an ambulance at the time and in the circumstances would have prevented Ann´s death.

On Brian´s behalf, medical negligence solicitors pursued his case, and now Brian has received an undisclosed settlement of compensation for the failure to dispatch an ambulance. Speaking to his local paper, Brian said:

“If an ambulance had been dispatched that night, it may not have stopped her going into cardiac arrest, but at least she would have been in the best possible hands and at least stood a chance of living. Nothing can bring Ann back, but it was very important to me that NHS Direct acknowledged its mistakes so that no one else would suffer as she did”.

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DDU Pays More than £1.1 Million in Compensation for Negligent Dentistry

The Dental Defence Union (DDU) has revealed it paid out more than £1.1 million in compensation for negligent dentistry on behalf of its members last year.

The DDU is the dentistry equivalent of the Medical Defence Union, and is an organisation that provides indemnity and legal support when claims for negligent dentistry are made against its members. Over the last decade, the DDU claims that there has been a substantial increase in the volume of claims being resolved in excess of £100,000.

Since 2006 – when only two claims were settled for amounts in excess of £100,000 – the DDU has paid almost £5 million in six-figure settlements; with £1.1 million compensation for negligent dentistry being paid out in 2015. The highest settlement of the eleven six-figure settlements was for the failure to diagnose and treat periodontal disease leading to tooth loss.

John Makin, head of the DDU, is concerned that the increasing number of claims and the escalating settlements of compensation for negligent dentistry are making indemnity more expensive for individual dental practitioners. “We are seeing disturbing rises in the cost of clinical negligence claims and a surge of claims exceeding £100,000 against our dental members,” he said.

Makin blames rising patient expectations and aggressive marketing by medical negligence solicitors for the increased number of six-figure settlements of compensation for negligent dentistry. He listed common allegations made by patients in 2015 as implants or cosmetic treatments that were unsatisfactory, excessive, or where the appearance was not as expected.

However, Makin´s comments have been attacked for being misleading. One contributor to dentistry.co.uk argued that it was only right that patients should expect a high standard of treatment from dentists, and expect dentists to put things right when they go wrong – or pay compensation for negligent dentistry.

The contributor also criticised the DDU´s head for blaming solicitors for the bigger compensation settlements. He commented that if there were no solicitors, the negligent dentists would be getting away with misdiagnosing gum disease and tooth decay. He added that if the DDU were to admit liability for their members´ faults at an earlier stage – rather than defend indefensible claims – the DDU´s legal costs would be much lower.

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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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Claim for a Vasectomy on the Wrong Patient Likely after Errors Admitted

A claim for a vasectomy on the wrong patient is likely to be made against the Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool following the admission of procedural errors.

In February 2014, the man – identified only as Patient A – was due to undergo surgery to have scar tissue removed, when he was brought into the operating theatre out of sequence and underwent a vasectomy procedure instead.

The error occurred initially due to changes being made to the operating theatre running order. The nurse responsible for the changes – Rosemary Tollitt – failed to advise colleagues of the changes or check Patient A´s identity as he was being taken into theatre.

However, the doctor in charge of the surgery – Dr Nanikram Vaswani – has admitted misconduct charges for failing to confirm the patient´s identity, not reviewing the patient´s medical notes and not following surgical checklists before commencing surgery.

Dr Vaswani has also admitted failing to inform the hospital authorities immediately after realising his error, and failing to keep notes of his conversation with Patient A after the operation – a conversation that led to an unsuccessful vasectomy reversal operation being attempted later in the day.

In addition to the procedural errors likely to be included in a claim for a vasectomy on the wrong patient, it is also the opinion of the General Medical Council that Patient A would not have been in an appropriate emotional state to give his informed consent for the vasectomy reversal procedure.

It is understood that Patient A has sought legal advice about making a claim for a vasectomy on the wrong patient against the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust. A spokesman from the General Medical Council said that the man had been “physically and emotionally traumatised” by the experience.

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