Category Archives: Case studies

Debilitating neurological condition allowed to deteriorate after medical team disagrees on treatment

Mr G was admitted to hospital with weakness in both of his arms and legs in November 2016.  A stroke was ruled out but an MRI scan showed that in addition to some arthritis in his hips, Mr G’s cervical cord in his spine was being squeezed and compressed due to ageing and wear and tear.  The only treatment as surgery.  The only treatment available was surgery.  This is complex and risk surgery but without it, Mr G was told that his symptoms would progress and he so agreed to have the operation.

Over the next three weeks, Mr G remained an inpatient in hospital and the same surgeon would come to discuss the spinal decompression surgery with him almost daily.  Mr G was led to believe that the operation could happened at any time and they were just waiting for a suitable date.  However, unbeknown to Mr G, the team who were making the decision as to whether to offer Mr G surgery were in dispute because they were not all in agreement as to the cause of Mr G’s symptoms.

One senior Surgeon in particular thought the cause of Mr G’s symptoms was pain caused by arthritis in his left hip.  It was his view that if he underwent a hip replacement operation, Mr G would be able to mobilise again.  Decompression surgery would not help with this.

Ultimately, Mr G had hip surgery but when he was reviewed afterwards his neurological position was found to be the same.  He was still unable to mobilise but he was now also without enough power in his arms to help with his own transfers.  When he was discharged from hospital, in addition to a wheelchair, he also needed an electric stand aid and a hoist.

Over the next few weeks, Mr G had less and less function in his arms.  He became unable to sit in a chair without assistance and he was losing the ability to feed himself and do other every day tasks with his arms and hands.  Arrangements were made for him to have a further MRI scan which was not materially different to the previous scan.  Further discussions took place between the Surgeons and this time the dissenting Surgeon was over-ruled.  Mr G’s surgery was eventually carried out after a 3 month delay in which he had lost further function in his upper limbs which could not be recovered.

Mr G did a complaint to the hospital about the delay in his treatment.  The response to the complaint suggested that the delay was caused by Mr G’s reluctance to have the necessary surgery.  Mr G then instructed us to investigate his treatment further.  When we undertook a review of his medical records, they revealed the true nature of the delay in his operation was due to the disagreement between the surgeons on how to treat Mr G when Mr G had already consented to the spinal surgery very early on.

Investigations were commenced with a specialist and allegations of an unnecessary delay were put to the Hospital Trust.  The Trust admitted that the hospital had breached their duty of care to Mr G in failing to operate on his spine earlier and this had allowed his condition to deteriorate unnecessarily.

Tragically Mr G passed away from an unrelated condition before his claim could be settled.  His wife inherited his right to sue for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity he had experienced and we were able to negotiate a significant 5 figure settlement.

It is worth saying that it is not always unreasonable or negligent for medical professionals to have differences of opinion but on this occasion when time was of the essence and earlier surgery would have afforded Mr G a more comfortable life, it was unacceptable not to treat the more severe and threatening condition first.

Failures in medical treatment or lack of treatment can cause existing injuries or conditions to worsen and injured patients are entitled to be compensated for this.  If you would like to discuss any type of injury caused by medical treatment please get in touch with us for free specialist advice.

Ashleigh Holt – March 2021

Premature death of a young Mother

Gail was only 38 when she contracted chicken pox from her 4-year-old daughter.  She began to feel unwell over the next few days and so her Husband telephoned NHS 111.  It was a Saturday afternoon, and she was advised to go to an out of hours GP service about 20 minutes away.

At the time Gail had a sore throat, was unable to keep any food or water down and had a temperature of over 40 degrees centigrade.  The Nurse Practitioner thought she was suffering from a bad case of chickenpox and that she needed to go home and “tough it out” and let it “ride its course” and that “all would be fine”.  Gail went home.

She died on Sunday evening.

Chicken pox in adults is extremely dangerous and usually requires immediate treatment in hospital before sepsis sets in and the vital organs shut down.  All GP’s are aware of its seriousness and have protocols in place to deal with such occurrences.  Unfortunately, in this case the Nurse Practitioner although making a correct diagnosis did not follow the protocol that was in place – she should have urgently referred Gail to hospital.  Had that happened she would have survived.

The out of hours service did not admit fault until after proceedings were started.  They did not offer compensation until a Trial date was fixed.  This is how some Defendants work.

Gail had a good job and was the main breadwinner in the Family with her husband Geoff staying at home to look after their young daughter.   The case settled a few weeks before Trial.  The settlement will go some way to help the Family pay for what is needed, but of course it is no compensation for the loss of a Mother and Wife.

Hilton Armstrong – March 2021

Hospital admits its staff did not have “requisite experience or competence” to treat patient

R was pregnant when she attended hospital at 17 weeks gestation.  Due to complications, she was advised to terminate the pregnancy.

She was initially offered medical termination of pregnancy which was unsuccessful.  She then underwent 3 different attempts to try and terminate the pregnancy, none of which worked.  Finally, she was taken for surgery during which there was massive bleeding and she required a hysterectomy rendering her infertile.

Our expert was hugely critical of the treatment provided in that:

1.The medication given to bring about medical termination of pregnancy was half the recommended dose so wasn’t going to work.

2. 2 of the other methods used are known to be ineffective and can cause other problems.

3. She should have been transferred to a specialist unit as the staff in question did not have the necessary expertise.

4. The surgeon did not have the requisite experience to perform the procedure required.

Whilst the claim looked strong on breach of duty, our expert thought causation was difficult as a hysterectomy may have been required in any event.  However, he was of the view that, on the balance of probabilities (the legal test to establish causation), this would have been avoided.

Breach of duty was admitted but causation was denied.  However, the Defendant was keen to settle, presumably in light of the catalogue of errors in R’s treatment.  The claim settled, not only for the physical injuries as a result of the deficiencies in treatment, but also the psychological effect this incident had on her.

Kathryn Watson – January 2021

Another High Court trial, another win for the Claimant

Clinical negligence claims rarely go to trial for a judge to determine the outcome.  The benefit of the length of these claims is that there is plenty of opportunity for the claim to settle and over the 28 years Armstrong Foulkes has specialised in clinical negligence claims, we have only had a handful of trials.  2020 has been an extraordinary year for a variety of reasons including the unprecedented number of trials we have had – 3; the latest being a claim for M arising out of the care she received from the local ambulance service in 2016.

M was at home alone when she suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm.  She was in excruciating pain, vomiting and in and out of consciousness.  Despite this, she had the presence of mind and strength to crawl downstairs to unlock her front door and get her mobile phone to call 999.  The ambulance service told her they would send an ambulance.  Unfortunately, after the call, her phone battery ran out and as she was collapsed in the hallway of her home, she was unable to get to her landline telephone which was in another room.

The ambulance failed to arrive.  M, feeling like she was being left to die, managed to crawl to her front door and open it, despite her condition deteriorating as each minute passed.  Approximately an hour after she had called for an ambulance, she managed to attract the attention of her neighbour who called 999 to chase for an ambulance.  The ambulance service confirmed an ambulance would be sent.  A further half an hour passed and the neighbour called 999 again.  Again the ambulance service confirmed an ambulance would be on its way.  Shortly afterwards, M’s mother and son arrived at the house and a fourth call was made to 999.  Finally an ambulance arrived, nearly 2 hours after M first called 999, and M was taken to hospital for emergency surgery.

Fortunately, following her surgery, M made a very good recovery from the haemorrhage.  However, she developed severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the ordeal as she felt the ambulance service had left her to die.

The ambulance service admitted very early on that there was a substandard delay in the ambulance arriving to take M to hospital.  However, they disputed this caused any injury to her.  It was the evidence of our expert psychiatrist that the incident as a whole caused M’s PTSD and it is beyond the limits of medical science to establish whether or not she would have suffered PTSD in any event even if the ambulance had arrived on time.  Therefore, as the delay in the ambulance arriving made a material contribution to her PTSD, we could claim for the entirety of her injury.  The Defendant’s expert psychiatrist disagreed with this.  He was of the view the events of that day were so traumatic, M would have likely suffered PTSD even if the ambulance had arrived earlier.

The Claimant made repeated attempts to settle the claim before trial but the Defendant was unwilling to engage in negotiations.  The claim was therefore listed for a 2 day trial in the High Court in October.  The judge found in favour of the Claimant and agreed with our expert who he described as “a thoughtful, balanced, and careful expert witness who was doing his best to provide the court with his genuinely held opinion.”

On the other hand, the Judge was not convinced by the evidence of the Defendant’s expert.  Whilst experts are instructed by a party to the claim, ultimately their duty is to the Court and their evidence should be objective and impartial i.e. it should be the same regardless of whether they are instructed by the Claimant or the Defendant.  Unfortunately, this could not be said of the Defendant’s expert.  The Judge was of the view “there was a lack of objectivity” and that “there was an attempt, certainly at times, to present an assessment which was less than favourable to the Claimant”.

This case highlights why it is paramount claims such as these are handled by solicitors who specialise in clinical negligence.  Firstly, although many claims settle well before trial, some do not and it is important to instruct a solicitor who has experience pursuing claims through to trial.  Secondly, as demonstrated by this case, these cases stand or fall on expert evidence.  We spend a great deal of time and effort locating the best experts in each specialty and scrutinising their evidence throughout so we get the best results for our clients.

If you would like to discuss a potential claim with one of specialist clinical negligence solicitors for some free, no obligation advice, please contact us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson – December 2020

Death from delay in treating a stomach injury

Jack, a Husband and father of two young children died aged 29.  He had been injured in a car accident a week earlier when he was a back seat passenger and wearing a seatbelt.  The car was driven by his cousin.

The car overtook on the brow of a hill, resulting in a head-on collision with another car.  The Police and Ambulance were called and Jack who did not appear too badly injured, was taken to Hospital.  He was examined and discharged home.  In the following days he deteriorated quite quickly and was admitted to a different Hospital.  The diagnosis was a perforated bowel, which was operated on.  However, he never recovered and sadly died  just over a week after the accident.  The cause of death on the Death Certificate was cerebral injury due to cardiac arrest (during the operation), and peritonitis as a result of perforation of the small bowel, and a blunt force injury of the abdomen (both sustained in the road traffic accident).

The cousin was charged with causing death by dangerous driving.  He pleaded guilty.    He admitted liability for the accident but not the death.  In respect of the death he blamed:-

  • The A&E Department who saw the Deceased immediately after the accident and did not diagnose the perforation of the small bowel.
  • Jacks GP – he was telephoned a few days prior to admission to Hospital.  He should have examined and admitted Jack to hospital.
  • The second Hospital – who failed to diagnose and treat the perforated bowel soon enough and so prevent the death.

After starting Court proceedings the second Hospital admitted legal blame and responsibility for the death.

The case was settled for £300,000 shortly before the trial.  The 2 children received a total of £46,000 and the balance was paid to his Widow.

Hilton Armstrong – November 2020

GP fails to recognise serious foot condition leading to irreversible deformity

Mr D is a diabetic who, when aged 52, saw his GP because of redness, warmth, tenderness and swelling of his right foot.  He was diagnosed with cellulitis and prescribed repeated courses of antibiotics.  These did not help and he continued to suffer from problems with his foot.

5 months after originally seeing his GP about his foot, he decided to go to the diabetic foot at the hospital.  Here he was diagnosed with Charcot foot, a rare but serious condition where the bones in the foot weaken and fracture causing permanent deformity and disability.  His foot was immobilised but unfortunately by that point, permanent deformity had occurred.

Mr D’s claim was that his GP should have suspected Charcot foot and referred him urgently to hospital where the foot would have been immobilised before the deformity occurred.  This was admitted very early on by the Defendant but it then took some time investigating how much the case was worth as it was the evidence of our expert that Mr D was at risk of further problems with his foot, developing Charcot in his left foot and being unable to work again.  Once these investigations were complete, the parties attended a meeting where a 6 figure settlement was agreed.

This case shows that it is not always proving the treatment was substandard that is the hardest and most time-consuming part of a case.   Here, that was admitted early but the claim continued to ensure Mr D received appropriate compensation.  If you think you or a family member has received substandard treatment, it is important to instruct a specialist solicitor to deal with the claim to ensure you receive the most amount of compensation possible.  If you would like to speak to one of our clinical negligence solicitors for some free, no obligation advice, please contact us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson – September 2020

Symptoms of a heart attack confused with soft tissue injury from blood pressure monitoring cuff!

Mrs F was an elderly lady under investigation for hypertension by her GP.  On 15 June she was given a 24 hour blood pressure cuff to wear.   During the evening of 17 June she developed aching pain down the left side of her neck; around her left breast;  and down her left arm.  In the early hours of 18 June she was woken up with pain in her back and left shoulder;  and under her left armpit and she took two Paracetamol.

When she woke in the morning, the symptoms, while a little less, were still there and so Mr F took his wife to a Walk-In centre attached to the local hospital.  Mrs F was seen by a Nurse Practitioner who noted the history regarding the blood pressure cuff and concluded that Mrs F’s symptoms were as a result of the repeated light compression of the soft tissue by the blood pressure cuff and that they should ease over the next day or two.

The symptoms were constant for the next few days but on 23 June her condition worsened and Mrs F went to the Emergency Department.  She was diagnosed as having suffered  a heart attack but due to late presentation, the clinicians were unable to offer any other treatment save for medication.  As a consequence, of the heart attack Mrs F had suffered a significant degree of ventricular dysfunction which left her extremely breathlessness and limited in terms of her activities and her mobility.  Her condition deteriorated and she suffered a further heart attack less than 2 years later.  She required assistance with dressing and food preparation.  She was unable to look after her home and her life expectancy was reduced.

Mrs F asked us to investigate the standard of treatment she had received.  With the help of specialist medical experts in the fields of Nursing and Cardiology, we established that Mrs F should have been sent to hospital by the Nurse Practitioner as she was going through the initial presentation of an acute coronary syndrome.  She would have been placed on an acute coronary syndrome pathway to carry out coronary angiography and stenting and on the balance of probabilities, she would have avoided a heart attack altogether.

We presented this case to the Defendant.  Their initial response, after 6 months, was to deny that they were responsible for the Nurse Practitioner at all.  We disagreed and persisted with the claim and prepared the necessary documents to begin formal court proceedings.  The Defendant responded to the claim with a reasoned but illogical denial of liability and before we could issue the claim at court, a settlement was reached between the parties for a five figure sum.

At Armstrong Foulkes we continue to fight claims where we have clear evidence of wrongdoing and substandard treatment.

Ashleigh Holt – September 2020

Amputation of the arm

Bill is a charming 78 year old retired seaman.  He fell at home and dislocated his left shoulder.  He went to hospital but didn’t receive the proper treatment.  The doctors failed to diagnose what is known as a false aneurysm.  This is where blood is left and then clots in an area where it shouldn’t be. In Bill’s case, the internal bleed was from his left shoulder into his left upper arm.

Over the following weeks/months his left arm became very swollen and painful.  When he was eventually referred to the Orthopaedic Surgeons, action was taken.  Unfortunately this was too late to save his left arm which had to be amputated at the shoulder.

His Consultant at the hospital was very honest with him and said that had he seen him sooner he probably could have sorted out the problem without the arm being lost.  We took the case on and secured an admission of blame from the hospital.  We settled the claim for a six figure sum shortly after starting court proceedings.

Bill, whilst delighted with the settlement would – if given the choice – have preferred to keep his arm rather than have the compensation.

Hilton Armstrong – July 2020

Three month delay in diagnosing dislocated shoulder leaves Carer needing care herself

A dislocated shoulder is usually easy to treat and in many cases there is no need for surgery.  While it can take months for the injury to resolve, it rarely results in a significant permanent disability however in the case of Mrs E, a failure to diagnose and treat her dislocated shoulder for over 3 months, has left her with virtually no function in her dominant arm and has rendered her unable to continue to care for her ill husband.

When Mrs E suffered a fall onto her right arm she attended her local hospital.  The entire arm was painful.  An injury to her elbow was ruled out in A&E and an Orthopaedic Surgeon arranged for wrist x-rays but did not arrange for any x-rays of the shoulder despite noting that Mrs E had restricted movement in the shoulder

Mrs E was referred for Physiotherapy but made such little progress that her Physiotherapist referred her for an ultrasound scan which took place over 3 months after Mrs E had first attended hospital.  The scan showed that the shoulder was chronically dislocated shoulder and she now needed surgery to try and resolve it.  Over the next 18 months Mrs E had 4 surgeries, the last being an attempt at a shoulder joint replacement.   All of the surgeries failed and Mrs E was left with a persisting dislocation which was painful and restricted her movement.

At the time of her fall Mrs E had been her husband’s carer but she was unable to continue to provide care to the same level and carers had to be employed to look after her husband and her son had to leave his job to help care for both of his parents.

Mrs E came to us when her first surgery failed and we quickly established with independent medical experts that there was a substandard failure to examine her shoulder and arrange to have it x-rayed.  Had the dislocation been diagnosed shortly after it happened, Mrs E would have had a successful reduction procedure and been able to return to caring for her husband as before within a few weeks.

When we approached the hospital, NHS Resolution who manage claims on behalf of their hospital members, denied liability for Mrs E’s injuries.  They suggested that either she could not have had a dislocated shoulder for over 3 months because it would have been too painful for her to manage for so long or she had had a previous dislocation and not known about it!  This was of course nonsense and court proceedings were issued in the Royal Courts of Justice.  The hospital maintained their Defence of the claim but before we could even proceed to the early step of exchanging witness statements, the hospital made an offer in settlement which led to a series of negotiations settling the claim in Mrs E’s favour some 4 years after her original injury.  Mrs E recovered a 6 figure sum in compensation for her injuries but was left without any option to restore her damaged limb.

The attitude taken by the Defendant’s in this claim is not unusual and it was disappointing that court proceedings needed to be brought before the Defendants would compensate the patient they had injured by failing to carry out an examination of her entire arm.  The allegations we put to the Defendant did not change and the matter could have been resolved earlier to the benefit of both parties. 

When you have independent expert evidence advising you that you did receive a standard of care below that which you should have and that it has caused you an injury, it is important and essential that you have specialist Solicitors you can trust to fight your claim on your behalf and get the justice you deserve.  Armstrong Foulkes are specialists in medical negligence claims and we will take that fight for our clients. 

Ashleigh Holt – June 2020

Hospital fails to diagnose appendicitis on 2 occasions leading to its rupture

R was 30 when he started to suffer from acute abdominal pain.  He saw an out of hours GP who suspected appendicitis and referred him to the surgical team at the local hospital.  Here he was noted to have a raised temperature, an increased heart rate and, after blood tests were performed, an increased white cell count.  Despite this, he was diagnosed with constipation and discharged home with laxatives.

By the following day, R’s pain had worsened and he returned to the hospital, this time to the Emergency Department.  He was again diagnosed with constipation and discharged home with laxatives.

R struggled on despite being very unwell and sought advice from his GP.  As R’s condition was getting worse rather than better, 10 days after last being seen at hospital, his GP arranged for him to have further blood tests.  These were very concerning showing high inflammatory markers.  R was sent straight back to hospital where he underwent a CT scan, revealing a burst appendix and pelvic abscess.  He required emergency open surgery to remove the appendix, which had by that point liquefied, and an ileostomy.  This was reversed 14 months later although he continues to suffer from urgency which restricts his social life as he always needs a toilet close by.

It was the evidence of our experts, a surgeon and a specialist in emergency medicine, that on both occasions R presented to hospital, he should have been admitted for further investigations which would have shown him to be suffering from appendicitis.  His appendix would not have ruptured by this point so it would have been a straight forward operation to remove the appendix which would have been performed by keyhole surgery.  He would avoided the need for an ileostomy and the associated scarring from this and the open surgery he underwent.

The hospital denied liability and it was necessary to issue Court proceedings.  They again reiterated their denial of liability in their Defence but shortly after, accepted R’s offer to settle his claim for £50,000.

Mistakes in healthcare have a profound effect on every aspect of a person’s life.  Not only did R have to struggle with the pain of his injuries and the difficulties with his stoma, he was also unable to work for a considerable amount of time which affected him financially.  Whilst the damages he received will never fully compensate him for what he has gone through and continues to have to deal with, it has helped him get financially back on track and gives him the opportunity to undergo further surgery to improve the significant scarring from his operations.

If you or a family member think you have received substandard care from a medical professional and would like some free, no obligation advice from one of our solicitors, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson – May 2020

Delay in diagnosis of Lung Cancer – Judge in High Court Trial found in Claimant’s favour

Whilst many clinical negligence claims are defended, very few go all the way to trial for a Judge to determine the outcome.   This is because a claim has to go through many stages before trial, all of which are aimed at narrowing the issues between the parties and encouraging settlement.

In February, one of our cases went to trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.  The case concerned a delay in diagnosis of lung cancer.  K had attended hospital in May 2016 with shortness of breath.  A chest x-ray was performed which showed a lesion in the lung and advised further investigation.  Unfortunately this report was not acted upon and K was sent home.

In November 2016, he returned to hospital, again due to shortness of breath, and a further chest x-ray was performed which showed the lesion had increased significantly in size since the x-ray in May.  Further investigations were undertaken and K was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Unfortunately, he died in February 2017 shortly after his first cycle of chemotherapy.

The hospital admitted straight away they should have acted upon the x-ray report of May 2016 and this would have resulted in K’s cancer being diagnosed 6 months earlier.  The dispute arose out of the difference earlier diagnosis would have made; our expert oncologist was of the view K would have survived 8 years with earlier diagnosis, the Defendant was of the view he would have survived an additional 2 years.   This made a significant difference to the amount of compensation due, much of which comprised damages for financial dependency for K’s widow, T.

Despite every effort to settle the claim before trial, this was not possible and a 3 day trial in the High Court took place in February.  Our expert was compelling on the stand and the Judge found his evidence more persuasive than the Defendant’s expert which meant T was successful in proving her claim as alleged.  Although it would have been far better for T to have the claim settled earlier and to have avoided the ordeal of attending trial, as the Judge awarded T more compensation than she had offered to settle the claim ahead of trial, she was also awarded a 10% increase in her compensation to penalise the Defendant for not accepting her earlier offer.  A 6 figure settlement will not ease T’s pain of losing her husband but it will now give her financial security for the future.

Anything can happen at trial as it really is the unknown.  We are reliant on one Judge agreeing with our view of the case over the Defendant’s.  However, as these cases rely so heavily on the experts and their evidence, we make sure we instruct the best experts with the best reputations and scrutinise their evidence throughout the claim.  Whilst there is no guarantee we will win should a case go to trial, and in the vast majority of cases they settle beforehand, we do all we can to ensure we stand the best chance possible of succeeding with the claim.

If you or a family member would like to speak to a solicitor for some free, no obligation advice, please contact us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson – April 2020

When mistakes happen, they often come in two’s

Pat was a diabetic and each week she attended the Podiatry Clinic to have an ulcer on her left foot treated.   The Podiatrist clipped her toenails after redressing the ulcer.  During this process she cut the big toe and it bleed quite a lot.  She bandaged it and sent her home with no instructions on redressing or returning for check-ups.

The next appointment was a week later.  However, she did not feel well enough to attend.    So she telephoned the hospital to explain.  She reattended the following week.  When the bandage was removed the Podiatrist saw that the toe was black.  Pat was immediately admitted to Hospital.

Because she was in danger of losing her left leg she was transferred to another more specialised hospital.         When they looked at the foot they said she needed an above ankle amputation as the foot could not be saved.

A couple of days or so after the amputation and whilst still in hospital her right heel started to hurt.  She mentioned it to the nurses and they inspected it.  They said it was a bed sore.  At this stage it was about the size of a pin prick.

All that seemed to happen was that the dressing was changed periodically.  Pat’s Husband complained about the lack of progress and emergency meetings were held following which the Vascular Team got involved for the first time.  Proper treatment didn’t start until then and despite their best efforts they couldn’t save her right leg and she had an above the knee amputation.

What a predicament.  One hospital neglected the left leg and the other the right one.   The end result is poor Pat has lost both legs and blames both hospitals.  To make it worse, Pat passed away a couple of years later for reasons unconnected with the amputations.

Her Husband continued with the claims and we were able to successfully conclude both notwithstanding a denial of wrongdoing on the part of the first hospital.

Hilton Armstrong – March 2020

Cauda Equina Syndrome – a life changing spinal injury

Miss D developed some low back pain which was travelling into her legs in September 2011.  Her GP rightly referred her to Physiotherapy via the local hospital Trust and when her symptoms worsened he made a second referral in October 2011 to the Orthopaedic Spinal Service.  Miss D was seen by a Nurse Practitioner in Orthopaedics and complained of some unusual symptoms in that she could not feel when her bladder was full.  The Nurse Practitioner did not pick up on this but arranged for Miss D to have an MRI scan but this was not to take place for a further 6–7 weeks.

Miss D continued to attend her Physiotherapy sessions.  In November, when she noticed that she was struggling to pass urine and that she had some numbness around her buttocks and genitals, she reported this to her Physiotherapist who sent her urgently to A&E.  Miss D was admitted to hospital with an plan to have an urgent MRI but instead she was discharged home the following day with advice to wait for the already booked scan which was still some 3–4 weeks away.

Miss D eventually had the MRI scan of her spine as planned in the week before Christmas in 2011.  A couple of days later she then received a telephone call from the hospital asking her to come into hospital that evening to undergo urgent surgery.  The scan had shown a disc at the very bottom on her spine was protruding and pressing on the nerves there.  She was suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome.

Miss D underwent a L5/S1 decompression operation that night.  This halted further damage being caused but could not undo the damage which had already been done to the nerves affecting her urinary, bowel and sexual function.

She was therefore left unable to open her bowels normally or void her bladder without using a catheter up to 7 times a day.  She was left with no sensation in the saddle area, agonizing neuropathic pain, cramping in her toes, depression and fatigue.  Further, as a result of all of these conditions, the low back pain she had previously suffered increased in severity and frequency.

Prior to her developing low back pain, Miss D had been a Carer for her long term partner and their adult son who both suffered with long term health complications, both mental and physical.  Following her surgery, Miss D was unable to offer either of them the same level of care she had previously provided as she now required help and assistance.

Miss D consulted us in 2013.  We investigated the treatment she had received.  An independent Orthopaedic Surgeon was of the view that Miss D condition should have been suspected and diagnosed in November but also raised concerns about the Nurse Practitioner’s failure to arrange an urgent MRI scan when Miss D complained of urinary symptoms in October.  With a diagnosis and treatment at this time, Miss D would have avoided any bowel and bladder dysfunction and would have made a full recovery.

The Hospital Trust admitted breach of duty for failing to make an earlier diagnosis and accepted that they had caused some of the injuries which Miss D complained about but they did not accept that her current level of back pain could be attributable to their mistakes.  As a result, we started court proceedings.

We continued to investigate the cause and extent of Miss D’s injuries with a Neurosurgeon, a Urological Surgeon, a Bowel Surgeon and a Psychiatrist.  We obtained reports on what level of care and assistance Miss D now needed and what other therapies and aids and equipment she needed now and for the rest of her life as a result of the admitted negligence.

The claim continued for Miss D.  We arranged for her to undergo Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  Miss D was reluctant at first but the medication prescribed by her GP was not helping and she felt so low that she agreed to engage with a therapist.  We obtained some interim payments of compensation for her so she could buy some of the aids she needed, change her car to one with a more comfortable driving position and replace items in the home that she needed as a result of her condition.

The Defendants maintained that her current level of back pain was not a result of the negligence and they also insisted that the Claimant be examined by independent experts that they instructed.  With both parties having very opposing views on the cause of the current level of back pain and therefore the amount of compensation due to Miss D, the last step before trial was to have the experts instructed by both sides to meet and discuss their differences and provide a joint report on the issues on which they agreed and disagreed.

It was only at this stage, only 4 months before trial, that it was agreed by the Defendant’s Orthopaedic expert that while the negligence had not worsened Miss D’s underlying degenerative back condition, the fatigue, depression, anxiety and neuropathic pain which were all a result of the admitted negligence HAD in fact had the effect of worsening her back pain as claimed.  With four weeks left before a 7-day trial, the parties met and agreed a settlement of almost half a million pounds.

On the face of it, this was a straightforward case but the parties had such polar opposite views on the cause of the worsening back pain that the matter could not be resolved until the experts with the opposing views met.  We had asked the Solicitors to agree to this some 6 months earlier but this was refused.  This was a difficult case for the Claimant and at times she felt she should give up but we supported her and with her family and therapist helped build her up when she felt she couldn’t continue.

By the end of the case, she was able to see that her decision to come to us to investigate this claim had been the right one.  While we could not repair the damage done, we had helped her achieve the means to make her life easier and more comfortable.

A claim for medical negligence can be lengthy and challenging and once you suspect you have suffered an injury as a result of unacceptable treatment, the most important choice you then have to make is instructing the right Specialist Solicitor who will guide and support you through the claim.  We are always happy to discuss any potential claims.  This is all we do and all we know.  Don’t hesitate to contact us.

Ashleigh Holt – February 2020

“Flesh-eating disease” once again caused by failings in treatment

JS, a 70 year old lady, was admitted to hospital in the summer of 2016 with shingles.  She was suspected to also have a bacterial infection and was prescribed antibiotics.  Unfortunately, these were stopped when she was discharged 2 days later.

She was very unwell following her discharge and her GP arranged for her to be readmitted to hospital a week later.  She was once again diagnosed with a bacterial infection and prescribed antibiotics.  However, as the infection had been allowed to progress, her condition deteriorated but the hospital failed to address this.  In fact, on one day she was not reviewed at all despite her family raising concerns about her deterioration and the smell emanating from the wound on her hip.  They were simply reassured.

2 days later JS was seen by a Consultant who diagnosed necrotising fasciitis, more commonly known as the flesh-eating disease.  JS was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital where she underwent surgery to remove the necrotic tissue.  Her family were warned by the surgeons that they had had to remove so much dead tissue, they likened the injury to that of a shark bite.  She required further surgery to apply a skin graft and was only fit for discharge nearly 3 months after her admission to hospital.

JS had to endure a horrific injury for 15 months until she sadly died unrelated to this incident.

Solicitors for the hospital admitted very quickly that antibiotic therapy should have continued after her discharge following her first admission.  It was our case, supported by expert evidence in microbiology and infectious diseases, that had the antibiotics continued, the infection would have fully resolved and the subsequent deterioration in her condition, readmission to hospital and need for surgery would have been avoided. However, this was denied by the hospital although they did admit her condition would not have been so severe but for their negligence.

The case was settled before court proceedings were issued.  Although the hospital did not formally admit the flesh eating disease was caused by their lack of treatment, the settlement reflected this.

If you are concerned you or a family member may have received negligent treatment and would like some free, no obligation advice, please contact us on 01642 231110 to speak to one of our solicitors.

Kathryn Watson – January 2020

Delay in Diagnosing Brain Haemorrhage – £80,000 settlement

Sheila was in her early 40’s when she went to hospital after a series of very painful headaches.  What she actually had suffered was a brain hemorrhage.  Tests were carried out and after a few days she was sent home.  She should have been kept in for more extensive tests and these would have revealed the full extent of her condition.  This would have resulted in a referral to the neurosurgeons and a routine operation where the bleed in the brain is treated by putting a coil on it.

A few days after her discharge home she suffered a second hemorrhage and she returned to hospital.  More extensive tests were performed including an MR scan of the brain.  She was informed afterwards that all was in order (she had not had a brain hemorrhage and did not need surgery) and she could go home.

At home she suffered her third and the largest hemorrhage.  This time upon admission to the same hospital a proper diagnosis was made and Sheila was referred to James Cook University Hospital for the coiling operation.  Further enquiries by the hospital and a review of the previous MR scan showed that had the scan been properly looked at it would have revealed the first and second hemorrhages.

The hospital were quick to admit that they were responsible for the third hemorrhage but denied liability for the second one on the basis they acted reasonably in letting her go home (notwithstanding that she was sick in the discharge room) and that even if they kept her in she wouldn’t have been operated on in time to avoid the second hemorrhage.

Sheila was working casually at the time of the incidents but hadn’t been able to get back to her old job.  Her personality had changed.  Previously she was very outgoing and sociable but now she was introverted and anxious.

The settlement of £80,000 plus costs reflected the serious nature of the injuries that she suffered and the fact she hadn’t returned to work.

Hilton Armstrong – November 2019

Six year battle in claim for young mother’s death

Mrs C was diagnosed with a progressive, life-limiting auto immune disease affecting her lungs.  Due to the nature of her illness, she was managed between her  local hospital and a national centre for lung diseases in London.  In 2009 she gave birth to her first child, a son, and in 2012 she became pregnant again.   During the pregnancy, she developed a community acquired aspergilus infection.  This is a serious fungal infection and left untreated it can develop into a fungal mass in the lung cavity resulting in death.  Tragically for Mrs C  and her loved ones, the delay in diagnosing the infection and then inadequate treatment of it meant that she was unable to recover and she sadly passed away in hospital in 2013 only 6 weeks after having given birth to her daughter.

Mr C first sought our help shortly after his wife’s death.  We agreed to investigate the treatment his wife had received and obtained reports from a Respiratory Physician, an Obstetrician and a Thoracic Transplant Surgeon who were all critical about the standard of care Mrs C had received.

The medical evidence in this case was extremely complicated and further more by the fact that Mrs C had significant pre-existing lung damage and compromised lung function in any event.  However, our medical experts were critical of the lack of advice and information which had been given to Mr and Mrs C surrounding pregnancy and its impact on her mortality, the failure to refer her for assessment for a lung transplant and the negligent delay in diagnosing and appropriately treating the aspergilus infection.  Ultimately it was  concluded that the failure to treat Mrs C with anti-fungal medication earlier and over treating her with steroid medication caused her premature death.

The hospitals involved in the care of Mrs C denied that there were any failings in her treatment or care until 2018 when they eventually admitted that the infection should have been diagnosed several months sooner.  However, while they accepted they had breached their duty of care to Mrs C, they denied that this breach caused or contributed to her death.

With the continued support of our medical experts and a specialist barrister, we prepared to issue court proceedings against the local hospital Trust on behalf of Mr C and his children.    At this point, Solicitors acting for the hospital proposed that the parties attend a mediation meeting.  Mr C saw this as a positive step and willingly accepted the invitation and while this did not end with a settlement, it did allow the parties to narrow the issues between them and shortly after the mediation, but some 6 years after the death of his wife, Mr C accepted an offer in settlement of the claims.

This was a devastating and sad case.  The legal issues were complex and challenging and required detailed scrutiny and analysis which we were able to offer because of our many years of experience in practicing solely in medical negligence claims.  Mr C needed our help at the very worst time of his life to answer questions that he had but also to help him find the answers to questions he knows his children will have in the years to come.

In cases like this one, information can be what those left behind crave most.  Monetary compensation will never replace or make up for the loss of a loved one but it is also true that in many cases, losing a loved one can create a significant financial burden on families which compensation can help to relieve.  If you have suffered an injury or lost a loved one as a result of medical negligence, the team at Armstrong Foulkes LLP will be happy to discuss what has happened with you and help you where they can so please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Ashleigh Holt – October 2019

Hospital’s failure to treat infection resulted in “flesh-eating disease”

H underwent a caesarean section to deliver her first baby.  Whilst in hospital afterwards, she felt very unwell, with a raised temperature, feeling hot and cold, shivery and had an increased heart rate.  She also suffered from a lot of pain in the caesarean section wound.  Her blood test results were abnormal indicating she had an infection but despite this, she was discharged home to look after her new born son.

The following day, she went to see her GP who diagnosed a wound infection and prescribed antibiotics.  The day after, she had deteriorated further so she returned to hospital where she was diagnosed with necrotising fasciitis, commonly known as the flesh-eating disease.  She required 4 surgeries to remove large amounts of dead tissue which were incredibly painful for her and left her with scarring to her stomach.  She was distressed both by her own illness and the separation it caused from her new born baby and she subsequently developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

It was the evidence of our expert that she had clear signs of infection throughout her admission to hospital and these simply were not acted upon.  Had she been prescribed antibiotics at any time before her discharge 5 days after the caesarean section, the infection would have resolved and it would not have progressed to necrotising fasciitis.

The hospital denied this and suggested that the disproportionate pain she experienced following the surgery was because she was overweight. We alleged this pain was, amongst other symptoms, a sign of infection.  H’s weight was a common theme throughout the claim and reflected disparaging comments about her weight that had been made to H whilst she was in hospital.

As the hospital was of the view their treatment was reasonable, as was the decision to discharge her, we proceeded to issue court proceedings and the claim settled shortly thereafter.

If you suspect you or a member of your family has received negligent treatment and would like some advice as to how best to proceed, please contact us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to speak to you and advise you on the merits of a clinical negligence claim.

Kathryn Watson – August 2019

A head injury after fainting

Simon was in his mid 20’s when he dislocated his finger.  He went to the Accident and Emergency Department of his local hospital.  He was seen by a nurse who successfully put his finger back into joint by manipulating it.  However, whilst she was doing this Simon fainted and fell to the floor, hitting his head and knocking himself unconscious.

To avoid this sort of thing happening it is standard practice for patients to be seated whilst manipulations are taking place.  The nurse failed to follow this practice on this particular occasion.  The hospital therefore admitted fault quite quickly.  All that had to be decided was how much compensation should be awarded.

At first sight, it did not seem as if this would be much.  Simon was off work for about 3 months and then got back to his pub management job.  However, as with a number of head injuries, it took time before the full effects became apparent.  After about a year or so Simon thought his memory was deteriorating.  Before the fall he was able to recall everyone’s telephone number and deal with several tasks at the same time.  His inability to continue to do this led to frustration with his job and difficulties in his personal relationships.  As time went by these problems became greater and they resulted in him losing his job and his marriage breaking down.

The claim settled a month before the trial to decide the amount of compensation was due to take place, for £125,000.  Happily Simon has learned techniques to cope with his memory defects which have enabled him to be reunited with his wife and embark on a new career.

Hilton Armstrong – July 2019

Bicep injury attracts compensation of over £60,000

In addition to his usual daily employment, Mr B worked as a bouncer a few evenings a week to supplement his income and support his large family.  It was on one of these evenings that he felt something snap in his left upper arm which immediately felt painful and weak.  The following day, his arm was still painful and a bruise had started to form just past his left elbow.  Within 48 hours there was heavy red bruising around the arm and his bicep muscle appeared to be moving under his arm.

Mr B attended his local Accident and Emergency Department and was seen by an Emergency Care Practitioner.  She examined his arm and diagnosed a partial rupture of his left bicep.  She discussed the diagnosis with a doctor and then discharged Mr B with advise to rest the arm.  Mr B accepted the advice but became concerned after a few months that his arm was just not improving so he consulted his GP who referred him to an Orthopaedic Surgeon.  He was eventually seen by a specialist 9 months after the original injury and was diagnosed with a complete rupture of his bicep however secondary reconstruction at this late stage carried a 40 – 50% risk of nerve injury resulting in further permanent disability seriously affecting the function of his arm.  Mr B was strongly advised against any surgical intervention and a subsequent ultrasound scan confirmed the diagnosis.

As a result of the continued weakness and discomfort in his arm, and the lack of treatment options, Mr B was unable to continue working as doorman and he continues to be at a disadvantage on the open labour market.

Initially Mr B made a complaint to the Trust about the standard of treatment he had received.  The Trust’s first response was to advise that they had referred him to physiotherapy and had therefore discharged their duty of care.  Mr B objected to this and following a meeting with the Trust, they conceded they could not confirm that a physiotherapy referral had been made.  Mr B sought our help at this point and we agreed to investigate his case and offered him a “no win, no fee” agreement.

With the assistance of independent expert witnesses in the fields of Nursing and Orthopaedic Surgery, we discovered that there is a duty on examining clinicians to confirm or refute if a patient has suffered a total rupture.  This would usually be by way of a scan or a referral to the fracture clinic so that the patient can be examined by an Orthopaedic Surgeon.  There is some urgency in getting the diagnosis in an injury like this as repairs are easiest and most successful if carried out within 3 weeks in which case the patient will usually recover 95% of their original strength.  A referral to physiotherapy would be inadequate when the nature of the injury has not been confirmed.

A formal Letter of Claim setting out our allegations was sent to the Trust and a full admission of breach of duty and causation was admitted within the 4 month pre action protocol period in which the Defendants have to respond.  An initial offer of settlement was made in the sum of £10,000 however this was rejected because of the loss of earnings he had suffered in being unable to continue his door work.

Negotiations commenced and just before court proceedings were to be started the Defendants made a reasonable offer in full and final settlement of the claim.

The injury Mr B suffered is considered relatively minor.  He had a good degree of function remaining in his arm.  He was able to continue in his main employment and while being a doorman was no longer suitable for him, he was able to undertake other types of evening jobs if he wanted to in order to minimise his loss.  Therefore the element of the compensation he received for the actual injury was assessed at around £12,500 meaning that he recovered over £50,000 in past and future loss of earnings.

It is not uncommon for injuries considered less serious than others to attract higher awards of compensation because of the impact the injury can have on other areas of a person’s life.  Someone can have limited pain but they may suffer other restrictions in their life that they can be compensated for.

If you have suffered a similar injury, it is worth taking the time to get some from a specialist solicitor before dismissing it as being “not worth it”.  Our solicitors are more than happy to discuss this with you.

Ashleigh Holt, June 2019

Delay in diagnosis of ruptured oesophagus

In December 2015, Mr H underwent surgery to his left hand.  Afterwards, he vomited as a result of the anaesthetic he had been given, experienced a lot of pain and then began to vomit blood.  He was given an anti-emetic (to stop him being sick) and pain relief.

Over the next few days his condition deteriorated and he was in a lot more pain.  An x-ray and CT scan were performed which showed he had ruptured his oesophagus.  Unfortunately, due to the delay in diagnosis, it was no longer possible to surgically repair his oesophagus and it had to be left to heal by itself.  However, Mr H required open surgery to insert a tube into his stomach through which he was fed for 4 weeks.  He then had to gradually reintroduce drinking and eating, firstly with water, then juice, followed by soup and finally a soft diet.

A few weeks after his discharge from hospital, Mr H had to be readmitted to hospital as his oesophagus had re-ruptured.  Once again, he had to be fed through a tube into his stomach.

The hospital admitted very early on that they should have diagnosed the ruptured oesophagus much earlier when, on the balance of probabilities, Mr H would have undergone surgical repair and avoided all the subsequent problems.  After negotiation between the parties, the case was settled for £45,000.

If you or a family member think you may have received substandard medical treatment and would like advice on bringing a medical negligence claim, please telephone us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to advise you.

Kathryn Watson – May 2019

Amputation of the arm

Bill is a charming 78 year old retired seaman.  He fell at home and dislocated his left shoulder.  He went to hospital but didn’t receive the proper treatment.  The doctors failed to diagnose what is known as a false aneurysm.  This is where blood is left and then clots in an area where it shouldn’t be. In Bill’s case, the internal bleed was from his left shoulder into his left upper arm.

Over the following weeks/months his left arm became very swollen and painful.  When he was eventually referred to the Orthopaedic Surgeons, action was taken.  Unfortunately this was too late to save his left arm which had to be amputated at the shoulder.

His Consultant at the hospital was very honest with him and said that had he seen him sooner he probably could have sorted out the problem without the arm being lost.  We took the case on and secured an admission of blame from the hospital.  We settled the claim shortly after starting court proceedings.

Bill, whilst delighted with the settlement, like all injured patients, would have preferred to be fully able rather than have the compensation.

Hilton Armstrong – March 2019

Coronary disease misdiagnosed as tennis elbow

During the Christmas holidays Mrs A developed pain going down her left arm and pain from her right ear travelling down into her jaw, neck and top of her chest.  The pains would come and go in waves and would wake her from her sleep so when things did not resolve after a few days she attended a Walk in centre to see a GP.

The GP carried out an examination and diagnosed her as suffering from gastro-oesophageal reflux due to over indulgence in the festive period and tennis elbow for which she should take Paracetamol.

Mrs A’s symptoms continued and she began to feel worse.  She planned to make an appointment at her own GP practice when it re-opened but she was not afforded this opportunity and suffered a cardiac arrest at home in the meantime.  Her collapse was witnessed by her youngest child whose screams alerted Mrs A’s husband.  A 999 call was made and Mr A performed CPR until the Paramedics arrived.  Mrs A was taken to hospital but died a few days later.

Mr A approached us to investigate the standard of care that his wife had received from the GP who had seen his wife.  With the assistance of an independent GP expert witness and an independent expert witness in Cardiology we were able to establish that the GP had failed in his duty of care to Mrs A in not identifying that her symptoms could have a cardiac cause and to refer her urgently to hospital for investigations.  We were able to say that on the balance of probabilities, the results of these investigations would have been abnormal and lead to Mrs A being commenced on an acute coronary syndrome pathway including medication and stenting of blocked arteries.

With this treatment, she would have avoided the cardiac arrest and importantly she would have survived and lived to an old age.

Solicitors for the GP initially admitted breach of duty but denied that that the failure to refer Mrs A to hospital had made any difference to the outcome.  Formal Court proceedings then had to be started and the Defendants quickly made a full admission of liability for Mrs A’s death.

Mrs A had been the primary carer for her children while her husband worked and as a result the majority of the compensation claimed was for the loss of care and services Mrs A had provided to her family.  A 6 figure settlement was agreed between the parties and was  approved by the Court.

Acute coronary syndrome can be misdiagnosed as the symptoms, particularly in women, can mimic other conditions and can be atypical.  The consequences of failing to pick up on early signs can be catastrophic and as illustrated in this case, it can be fatal.  Early diagnosis and treatment is essential.

If you have suffered as a result of a missed or delayed diagnosis, we would be happy to discuss this further with you.

Ashleigh Holt – February 2019

Court allows patient to seek further compensation should she develop progressive lung condition

LH suffers from asthma.  In 2006, when she was 13 during a PE lesson at school, she used her inhaler which had been in her pocket along with 2 earrings.  She felt a sharp scratch in her throat and began to cough badly.  She then discovered one of her earrings was missing and assumed she had inhaled it when she had used her inhaler.  She immediately went to A&E when she explained what she thought had happened.  The doctor treating her thought she had instead swallowed the earring.  No x-ray was performed, she was reassured and sent home.

Over the next few years her asthma worsened and in 2014, she underwent a chest x-ray as a result of her increasing problems which included shortness of breath and a persistent cough.  This x-ray showed the earring in her lung which had collapsed as a result.  Fortunately, the earring was successfully removed and LH’s symptoms improved.

The hospital very quickly admitted that a chest x-ray should have been performed when she attended A&E in 2006 and this would have revealed the presence of the earring in her lung.  They admitted it would have been removed and she would have avoided the deterioration in her asthma from 2006 to 2014, along with the collapse of her lung.

However, they denied the long term effects this incident has had on LH.  It was the evidence of our expert respiratory physician that as a result of this incident, LH now has a 25% risk of developing bronchiectasis, a progressive life altering lung condition which may affect her ability to work and care for herself.

LH had 2 options to compensate her for this risk.  Firstly, she could settle on a full and final basis for 25% of what she would receive if she did develop the condition (to reflect the fact there is a 75% chance she will be fine).  Secondly, she could settle the case on the basis that she will not develop the condition but reserve the right to return to court for further compensation should she go on to develop bronchiectasis.  This is known as provisional damages.  It was our advice that this latter option provided far greater security and ensured she would receive full compensation if the worst happened.

LH followed our advice and sought provisional damages.  This was resisted by the hospital for a long time but they eventually conceded and the claim settled shortly before trial for £20,000 and the right to seek further damages should she be diagnosed with bronchiectasis at any point in the next 25 years.

This case highlights that when a mistake has been made, the long term consequences are often unknown until a thorough investigation has been completed.  Here, LH was unaware there was any risk to her future health as a result of what had happened until we obtained evidence from an expert in respiratory medicine.

If you or a family member are concerned by medical treatment you have received and the potential effect it has had on you, please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our solicitors will be happy to advise you.

Kathryn Watson – January 2019

Failure to prevent MRSA results in Amputation

Mrs K slipped on ice injuring her left knee.   At hospital she was told she needed surgery to repair her patella tendon was required. Unfortunately the hospital failed to follow their own infection control procedures and did not properly decolonise her.  This means they did not clean the relevant areas where she may have been carrying MRSA on her body before the operation and provide antibiotics which would prevent MRSA afterwards.

After the surgery she noticed pus leaking from the bottom of her plaster cast.  She was eventually diagnosed with an infected left knee wound and she had further surgery to treat this but again without proper MRSA prevention steps.  After this second surgery, she was diagnosed as being infected with MRSA and the correct treatment was then provided however this involved a third operation to remove some of the infection which had also reached the knee replacement joint which had to be taken out.

Over the following 9 months the infections failed to clear and this had a massive impact on her  health and her family life. She struggled to get around her home and her family had to convert a room downstairs for her to sleep in as she couldn’t make it upstairs. Mrs K was left with no option but to have a left below knee amputation.

We were approached by Mrs K after the amputation. After investigating the standard of treatment she received we were able to put the case to the Defendant NHS Trust who admitted a failure to follow their own infection control procedures and prevent the MRSA infection resulting in the amputation. Mrs K was forced into a wheelchair due to a wholly unsuitable NHS prosthetic limb which she could not wear for long periods of time and was not very flexible.

Due to the admissions made we were able to refer Mrs K to a private prosthetic company who properly assessed her needs including a desire to be more active with her young family. We secured funding from the Defendant to obtain an excellent microprocessor waterproof prosthetic limb which was in the past offered only to those injured members of the Armed Forces. This prosthetic limb, which was properly fitted to her stump allowed her to be more mobile, to walk on surfaces she had been unable to do so with the NHS prosthesis and to go swimming with her family. This made a massive difference to her life.

Mrs K had several other unrelated health problems which delayed full assessment of her claim, but the parties were able to reach a settlement which will allow her to fund the maintenance of and replacement of her prosthetic limb for life, to purchase more suitable single storey accommodation and support her financial needs now and in the future arising out of the amputation. Mrs K has said she feels she can now move on with her life.

MRSA is present on many people’s bodies and causes no harm in the absence of an open wound. However before any surgery like this a person should be tested for MRSA and the area decolonised and therefore fully cleaned of the MRSA infection. Hospitals have very clear infection control policies to prevent this kind of mistake occurring and a failure to follow these policies is difficult to defend.

Early funding for physical needs or equipment required because of the mistakes made by NHS Trusts can often be secured if the Trust accept responsibility for injuries. These payments can allow life to be improved for those who have been injured long before the case is settled.

If you would like to discuss a similar situation or any treatment you have received which you feel caused you an injury or worsened an existing injury please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Joanne Davies – December 2018

Delay in Diagnosing Stomach Cancer

Catherine was 53 when she died of stomach cancer.  2 years earlier her GP had referred her to hospital after she went to see him complaining of a feeling of fullness in her tummy.  She had an endoscopy, and biopsy, and was told all was clear and that she probably just had an ulcer.  This came as a great relief to her husband, Keith, and their children.  Unfortunately, as they were to find out a year later, the Pathologist had made a mistake when examining the biopsy.  She was not in the clear.  She had cancer which needed operating on.  By the time this was discovered it was too late and she died 2 months later.

The hospital were quick to admit that the Pathologist had made a mistake but defended the claim on the basis that even if the cancer had been diagnosed earlier, Catherine would still probably have died.  Shortly before a trial date was fixed we managed to persuade the hospital’s Solicitors to settle out of Court for £57,500.  As Catherine did not work and the children had grown up, it is a sad fact of the English legal system that compensation for the Husband and adult children in cases such as this can never reflect the true value of the loss.

Hilton Armstrong – November 2018

District Nurses mismanagement of pressure sore leads to death of disabled patient

Mrs R was a mother of 3 in her early 50s and suffering from Multiple Sclerosis when she developed a pressure sore to her sacrum.  This was identified during an admission to hospital.  When she was fit to be discharged arrangements were made for the community nursing team to manage the sore.

Despite identifying the sore as grade 3 and noting that an air mattress was needed, this was not then ordered for a further 30 days.  Over the next few weeks it was clear that the wound was deteriorating and becoming necrotic.  A Tissue Viability Nurse (TVN) was eventually asked to see Mrs R and she prescribed good treatment which would soften and debride the wound and kill and protect against bacteria however this advice was not followed and instead a dressing was applied which would not alter the wound status.

The wound continued to worsen and became inflamed and the TVN recommended hospital admission as it was suspected that she was becoming septic.  Mrs R was treated with intravenous antibiotics but her pressure sore was now described as grade 4 and so she was discharged from hospital with a Topical Negative Pressure (TNP) dressing however the district nursing team were unable to manage the TNP and it transpired that it had not actually been working since she was discharged from hospital.

Over the next few days Mrs R looked increasing unwell.  She was losing weight and was suffering nausea and her family were struggling to cope with the dressing of the wound and caring for her.  The community nurses continued to visit but the record keeping became sparse and less detailed.  Mrs R continued to decline until she was admitted to hospital after being found unresponsive.  On admission, bone was seen to be clearly visible through the wound to her sacrum.  She was severely septic and no treatment could be offered.  She sadly passed away shortly after, only 5 months after the sore was first noticed.  It was concluded that the most likely source of the infection was her pressure sore.

We were approached by Mrs R’s husband and sons to investigate the standard of care their wife and mother had received and the independent expert reports we obtained were damning of the standard of nursing case given to Mrs R.  In particular, the independent nursing experts was of the view that they had failed to:

  1.        Arrange for pressure relieving equipment soon enough
  2.        Arrange for a TVN visit soon enough
  3.        Follow the TVN’s advice and the Trust’s own policy for managing pressure wounds
  4.        Manage dressings appropriately
  5.        Arrange for further review/earlier re-admission to hospital

With proper treatment the view was that Mrs R’s sore would have healed and a second medical expert agreed that the failures in her treatment and care resulted in her death from sepsis.

When these allegations were put to the Trust responsible for the community/district nurses, we were faced with denials and the Trust were very keen to push the burden and the blame on Mrs R and her family.

As a result court proceedings were commenced but shortly after solicitors acting for the Trust entered into negotiations to settle the claim and Mr R agreed to accept a five figure sum.

This was a terribly sad case.  Mrs R and her family had been dogged by her ill health for years but they had rallied.  For her to be failed so absolutely when she desperately needed help most devastated them.

Pressure sores require careful and intensive treatment.  They don’t resolve on their own and as this case shows they can prove to be fatal.  If you or someone you know has suffered a pressure sore or deterioration of a sore due to poor medical care and treatment, please contact us for a free discussion.

Ashleigh Holt – October 2018

Failing to act on abnormal Echocardiogram leads to heart failure

Mr P was referred to a Consultant Respiratory Physician at James Cook University Hospital after developing shortness of breath and a cough in 2014.  Over the next 3 months the Consultant arranged a series of investigations including an Echocardiogram (Echo).  This showed Mr P had a mild left ventricular systolic impairment.

Mr P was told the Echo was normal and 3 months later he was referred to another hospital for a second opinion.  The referral letter requesting the second opinion advised that the  Echo was “normal”.

Mr P’s condition continued to deteriorate.  By March 2016 he was struggling with day to day activities.  He was unable to sleep as he was struggling to breathe when he lay down.  He could not make it upstairs to bed.  In May 2016 he attended a review appointment and his condition prompted his Consultant to admit him to hospital there and then for further investigation.  A second echocardiogram now showed significant left ventricular dysfunction and Mr P was told he was in severe heart failure.  His left ventricle was narrowed and his aorta was only working 15 – 20%.

Mr P’s care was transferred to a Cardiologist and he was started on a number of anti-heart failure medications.  He was initially unable to return to work as a HGV driver as his condition had to be reported to the DVLA and his driving licence.  It was later returned when a further echocardiogram showed that he was responding to the medication and his condition had improved.

We investigated the standard of care Mr P had received with an independent Respiratory Physician and Cardiologist.  They confirmed that he should have been referred to a Cardiologist following his first Echo and he would have been commenced on treatment 2 years earlier.  Had this occurred, the progression of his condition would have been slower and he would not have developed heart failure in 2016.

These allegations were put to the Trust and were admitted.  A financial settlement was achieved quite quickly for a 5 figure sum.  However, Mr P had lost 2 years of his and his young son’s life and his heart condition had been accelerated.

If you have suffered an injury as a result of a test or investigation being wrongly reported or interpreted and you would like to discuss this please contact us for free no obligation advice.

Ashleigh Holt – September 2018

Avoidable pressure injuries admitted by hospital as part of their duty of candour

Mrs P, an 80 year old lady at the time of treatment, developed severe pressure injuries to her heels and buttock whilst an inpatient at the James Cook University Hospital.  The pressure sore to her right heel was particularly serious, requiring multiple courses of antibiotics due to infection of the bone, hospitalisation, surgical debridement and taking 9 months to heal.

Initially, she did not consider that these sores may have developed as a result of substandard treatment.  However, the hospital adhered to their duty of candour which stipulates that medical professionals should be open and honest with patients and admit when something has gone wrong.  It was only after they told her they thought the sores were avoidable did she decide to contact us for advice.

We took her case on to investigate the standard of the nursing care whilst she was an inpatient.  Our nursing expert was critical of the nurses who had been responsible for Mrs P and identified a number of failings in their care, in particular failing to ensure adequate pressure relief by the use of repositioning and pressure relieving devices.  We then obtained expert evidence from a vascular surgeon on the effects of the injuries Mrs P sustained and he was also critical of the treatment she received from her treating doctors – she was suffering from leg ischaemia which required revascularisation surgery.  Had this been performed earlier, the injuries to her heels would have been avoided.

The hospital was slow to respond to our allegations of negligence and only did so once we were about to issue court proceedings.  They admitted liability and the claim was settled shortly thereafter for £25,000.

In this case, the hospital followed the duty of candour policy and informed Mrs P that, in their opinion, the injuries she sustained were avoidable.  Often, hospitals and doctors are not so forthcoming.  If you think you have suffered an injury as a result of negligent treatment, please contact us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to advise you.  There is no obligation on you to pursue a claim and the initial discussion is free of charge.

Kathryn Watson – September 2018

No action on suspicious chest x-rays at James Cook University Hospital in the Summer of 2016

SB was only 54 when she died of lung cancer.  A Wife and Mother.  Five months earlier she had been admitted to hospital complaining of chest pains.  She had a chest x-ray which revealed a tumour with a recommendation for an urgent CT scan.  Regrettably SB was not informed of the results and advice for a CT scan was not followed.  She was discharged home with a diagnosis of musco-skeletal chest pain with no further action planned.

The tumour grew.  It wasn’t until 4 weeks before her death that she and the Family were told she had incurable lung cancer and palliative treatment was all that could be offered.  Around the same time the results and recommendation of the earlier chest x-ray were passed on to SB and her Family.  An opportunity for treatment and surgery had been lost and a life unnecessarily shortened.

The family consulted us and we were able to secure an early admission of fault and payment of compensation to the Husband.  I’m afraid that was all the legal system could do.

However, it later transpired that this was not the only missed chest x-ray at JCUH in the Summer of 2016.  We had two other cases where women, also in their 50’s had a chest x-ray which identified a tumour with recommendations for further tests, and in both those cases the information was not acted upon and the women died.  We have taken the matter up with the Chief Executive of the Trust and are awaiting a formal response.  Apologies have been given over the phone and we have been told an explanatory letter is on its way.

Delaying a diagnosis and treatment of cancer of any kind can mean the difference between life and death.  If you have been affected in this way, please get in touch to discuss if there is anything we can do to help.

Hilton Armstrong – July 2018

Premature death of County Durham lung cancer patient

Mrs N was aged 69 when she developed pain in her right shoulder blade.  Her GP arranged for her to have a chest x-ray at a local hospital in April 2013 and this was reported as normal.

Mrs N’s back pain continued.  By the end of 2013 she was suffering some breathing difficulties which were attributed to a chest infection.  When antibiotics failed to improve her condition a second chest x-ray was arranged.  This revealed nodules on her lungs which required further investigation.  She was referred for a CT scan and to a Chest Physician under the 2 week wait rule.

Sadly, the outcome in January 2014 was that Mrs N was suffering from lung cancer.  It was in both lungs and had spread to her spine.  It was at this stage that the Chest Physician realised that the April 2013 x-ray had also shown a mass in Mrs N’s right lung and that this had been missed.

The hospital investigated this error and confirmed that they had contracted out the work of reporting her x-ray to an outside service provider who has missed the lesion.  They could only apologise.

Mrs N commenced treatment and responded well initially.  She was a very fit lady and coped well with the treatment however a follow up CT scan showed that the cancer was progressing.  In February 2015 the cancer was found to have metastasised to her brain and Mrs N passed away in May 2015, aged 72, leaving behind her husband of over 50 years who continued with the claim on her behalf.

The NHS Trust responsible accepted that they had breached their duty to care to Mrs N very early on however they disputed that the 9 month delay made any difference to her treatment or prognosis.  As a result Mr N was forced to issue Court proceedings against the Trust in August 2016.

Mr N’s case, supported by an independent Clinical Oncologist was that

a) His wife’s cancer should have been diagnosed in May 2013.

b) There was no evidence that the cancer had spread by this time and his wife would have been offered surgery to remove the cancer followed by chemotherapy.

c) As a result of the delay in diagnosis, the cancer had been allowed to spread so that surgery was no longer an option.

d) His wife’s life had been shortened by more than 2 years as a result.

The NHS Trust disputed the Claimant’s evidence but only months before a trial at the High Court was due to start, the matter was settled in 2018 in Mr N’s favour when he agreed to accept a 5-figure sum in damages.

The motivation for Mr N was never compensation.  He feels that he has finally got justice for his wife but he continues to miss her every day and he feels robbed of the time he should have been able to spend with her.

Delaying a diagnosis and treatment of cancer of any kind can mean the difference between life and death.  If you have been affected in this way, please get in touch with one of our solicitors to discuss if there is anything we can do to help.

Ashleigh Holt – June 2018