UK Medical Negligence News

£500,000 Fine for Avoidable Stafford Hospital Deaths

The now-defunct Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has been fined £500,000 for failings that resulted in four avoidable Stafford Hospital deaths.

Charges were brought against the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into four avoidable Stafford Hospital deaths – three of them attributable to falls in the hospital, and a fourth due to a patient being administered a medicine she was known to be allergic to.

Last month the NHS Trust pleaded guilty to “very significant failings” in the care of the four patients at Stafford Magistrates´ Court, who referred the case for sentencing to Stafford Crown Court. At the hearing, the court heard that three of the charges related to a failure to carry out a proper risk assessment and identify control measures to prevent falls.

At Stafford Crown Court, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave – who had previously fined the NHS Trust £200,000 for failings related to the death of Gillian Astbury in 2007 – heard extracts from relatives about the four victims. He said that the failings that caused the four avoidable Stafford Hospital deaths were attributable to the lack of a robust management system for safeguarding patients.

Sentencing the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, the judge said: “I hope today brings some closure and finally draws a line under the past, and that Stafford and Cannock Hospitals can open a new and bright chapter and become the hospitals that their dedicated staff and local communities can once again be proud of.”

As the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is no longer operating, the £500,000 fine for the four avoidable Stafford Hospital deaths will be paid by the Secretary of State for Health. The Secretary of State for Health will also be liable for the £35,517 costs incurred by the HSE in bringing the prosecution.

Speaking to news reporters after the hearing, HSE Inspector Wayne Owen issued a statement on behalf of the victim´s families. Mr Owen said: The families acknowledge the NHS Trust´s unreserved apology. The conclusion of this case goes some way towards bringing the closure that they all need”.

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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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Woman Settles Claim for the Failure to Acknowledge Medical Instrument Phobia

A woman, who had metal clips inserted during a thyroidectomy against her wishes, has settled her claim for the failure to acknowledge medical instrument phobia.

In 2010, Sylvia Ramsay (66) underwent an operation on her thyroid at the Spire Roding private hospital in Essex. Prior to the surgery, Sylvia had told consultant surgeon Akinyede Ojo that she had a phobia about medical instruments and surgical items being left inside her body.

Sylvia told Dr Ojo that she had heard from an another consultant that it was possible to conduct a thyroidectomy without the use of metal clips, and requested that he avoided the use of clips and used dissolvable stitches instead.

Sylvia came around from the surgery believing that the consultant surgeon had carried out the procedure in line with her wishes. However, a year later she saw a specialist after complaining of breathing difficulties. The specialist took an X-ray of Sylvia´s throat that revealed the presence of twenty-five metal clips.

“I can only explain the feeling as similar to when you have a near miss in a car accident, that jolt of panic, followed by feeling out of control” Sylvia told her local paper. The clips were eventually removed by a private clinic in 2013, but only after her GP had refused to help and Sylvia had undergone a significant amount of therapy in an attempt to come to terms with her phobia.

After seeking legal advice, Sylvia made a claim for the failure to acknowledge medical instrument phobia against Dr Ojo and the Spire Roding hospital. Dr Ojo denied negligence and said that the situation had occurred due to a misunderstanding. However, following a lengthy period of negotiation, a settlement of Sylvia´s claim was agreed without an admission of liability.

“I know this is not a rational reaction but it is not something I can control,” Sylvia said after her claim for the failure to acknowledge medical instrument phobia had been settled. “It’s like putting an arachnophobe into a room full of spiders and telling them not to be so silly.”

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Court Approves Settlement of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy Compensation Claim

The High Court in London has approved an £11.5 million settlement of young boy´s athetoid cerebral palsy compensation claim after a hearing.

The five-year-old boy from Brighton – who cannot be named for legal reasons – was born at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in March 2010, having been deprived of oxygen in the womb due to a failure by midwives at the hospital to notice his mother´s prolapsed cord.

As a result of being deprived of oxygen, the boy now suffers from four-limbed athetoid cerebral palsy – a condition that results in involuntary movements, epilepsy, sight issues and a speech impediment. Because of these issues, the boy will be entirely dependent on others for the rest of his life.

In 2011, the boy´s father made an athetoid cerebral palsy compensation claim on behalf of his son against the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust; alleging that if midwives had notice the prolapsed cord, and the boy had been delivered eleven minutes earlier, he would not have sustained such devastating injuries.

In November 2012, the NHS trust admitted liability for the boy´s birth injuries and an interim settlement of the athetoid cerebral palsy compensation claim was made while reports were being conducted into the child´s future needs. Earlier this week at the High Court, a care and rehabilitation package worth £11.5 million was approved in final settlement of the athetoid cerebral palsy claim.

Speaking after the approval hearing had concluded, the family´s solicitor said: “We are pleased that we secured this settlement for him and his family, they now have the financial security and reassurance that the costs for his future treatment will be met. We hope that lessons are learnt by the Hospital and their staff so that patient safety in this situation can be improved and each and every patient receives the best quality of care at all times.”

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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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Woman Allowed to Pursue Compensation for an Injury from an Epidural

A woman from Leeds has been granted permission to pursue compensation for an injury from an epidural eleven years after the injury was sustained.

In 2004, Karen Rayner (aged 24 at the time) gave birth to her third child at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent. Prior to the delivery, Karen was given an epidural which, she claims, resulted in a loss of feeling in her legs and pains in her spine and head.

Karen was readmitted to the Medway Maritime Hospital three weeks later, having been diagnosed with hydrocephalus which is more commonly known as water on the brain. Surgery was carried out to drain the fluid, but Karen still continues to suffer as a result of an inflammation affecting her brain and spinal cord.

It was not until 2012 that a medical expert discovered that her ongoing condition was likely caused by the epidural being contaminated with an antiseptic called chlorhexidine. Karen – now living in Leeds – sought legal advice and claimed compensation for an injury from an epidural against Medway NHS Foundation Trust.

The NHS Trust disputed the claim for compensation for an injury from an epidural on the grounds that the three-year Statute of Limitations for injury compensation claims had expired. Karen´s solicitor argued that her claim had been made within three years of the “date of knowledge” of an injury and its cause, and took the case to the High Court in London.

Last week, Mr Justice Wilkie agreed with the solicitor´s interpretation of the law, and granted Karen permission to pursue her claim for compensation for an injury from an epidural. Judge Wilkie said that Karen had been “assiduous” in pursuing her right to compensation for an injury from an epidural and it would be wrong to stop her case. No date has yet been set for the full hearing.

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Judge Awards Compensation for Midwife Negligence

A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh has awarded £725,000 compensation for midwife negligence that resulted in a brachial plexus injury.

The claim for compensation for midwife negligence was made by an unnamed woman on behalf of her child – identified in court only as “Baby C” – who suffered a permanent brachial plexus injury to his right shoulder after excessive force was used during his delivery.

The court heard how Baby C was born at the Law Hospital Maternity Unit in July 1999, and how the delivery was initially going to be performed by a student midwife – Lynn Kerr. However, when Baby C started to emerge with the umbilical cord wrapped around his throat, nurse Kerr handed over to the more experienced Sister Rosemary Murphy.

According to the mother´s legal team, Sister Murphy failed to recognise a potential medical emergency and used excessive force – described in court as “similar to a tug of war” – to complete the delivery of Baby C. Lawyers at the Court of Session said that Sister Murphy´s actions were “pretty violent” and claimed that she had failed to follow protocols established in 1999 for such a scenario.

Sister Murphy and the Lanarkshire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust denied negligence and contested the claim for compensation for midwife negligence. However, Judge Lady Rae found in the mother´s favour – ruling that there was sufficient evidence of negligence to prove that Sister Murphy acted wrongly. In a written judgement, Lady Rae commented:

“I am satisfied that in course of his birth, C suffered a severe brachial plexus injury to his right side as a result of the negligence of the defenders’ employee Sister Rosemary Murphy and for whom the defenders are responsible. Sister Murphy failed to recognise an obstetric emergency after the student midwife had been unable to deliver the body of C after delivery of his head. As a result of these failures C was born with a severe brachial plexus injury to his right shoulder.”

Saying that Sister Murphy should have called for assistance “at the time and in the circumstances”, Lady Rae awarded Baby C £725,000 compensation for midwife negligence.

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Liability Admitted in Claim for the Negligent Treatment of a Broken Leg

An NHS Trust has admitted liability in a claim for the negligent treatment of a broken leg made by a woman who suffered years of unnecessary pain.

In August 2012, twenty-five year old Sally Marsh from Diglis in Worcestershire broke two bones in her right leg when landing awkwardly while playing soccer for her local women´s football team. Sally was taken by ambulance to Worcester Royal Hospital, where her leg was put into a full leg cast.

Sally was discharged being told it was okay for her to put weight on her right leg. The full leg cast was replaced with a half leg cast after eight weeks, and then Sally wore the half leg cast for a further six weeks. When the half leg cast was removed, it became apparent that Sally´s broken leg had not healed properly.

Sally went to see an orthopaedic specialist who informed her that the bone in her leg had set at a nineteen degree angle. The specialist said that Sally would need an operation to align her bones properly but, due the NHS Trust constantly postponing the operation, Sally did not undergo surgery until nine months later.

In the intervening period, Sally experienced a lot of pain from her leg. She had to take time off from work and was unable to pursue her usual pastimes and hobbies. When the operation to realign the bone in her leg eventually took place, Sally had a metal cage fitted to her leg to help support it, but the cage led to the development of an infection and Sally had to take repeated doses of antibiotics.

After seeking legal advice, Sally made a compensation claim for the negligent treatment of a broken leg against the Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. Sally alleged in her claim that she should not have been discharged so early after being admitted to hospital, that there was a failure by the hospital to appreciate the need for prompt surgical intervention, and that the failing of the hospital led to avoidable nerve damage and a deformity in her right leg.

After conducting an investigation, the Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust acknowledged failings in the standard of care Sally had received. The NHS trust admitted liability for Sally´s injuries and her solicitors are now negotiating a settlement of her claim for the negligent treatment of a broken leg.

After the admission of liability had been received, Sally commented: “It’s a relief that at least now the NHS Trust has admitted that it made mistakes and my legal case can move to the next stage. I just hope that no one else has to suffer as I have in the future.”

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