Mistake in hospital records results in loss of driving licence and job

M, an ordinarily fit and healthy 49 year old, was admitted to hospital with chest pain and vomiting.  During his admission, he was asked about his usual alcohol consumption and he estimated this to be about 8 to 9 units a week.  However, when this was electronically transcribed, it was mistakenly recorded as 89 units a week.  This erroneous information was used to form a diagnosis of alcohol induced pancreatitis and was sent to M’s GP in the discharge summary.

M is a heavy lifting specialist and shortly after his discharge from hospital, he attended his GP for a medical review in order to renew his HGV licence.  His GP noted the information from the hospital about M’s alleged alcohol abuse and reported this to the DVLA.  The DVLA then revoked M’s driving and HGV licences which forced him to hand in his notice at his job where he could not work without a valid HGV licence.

M’s treating doctors at the hospital were helpful in investigating what had happened.  They discovered the mistake and were also of the view M had never had pancreatitis but instead was suffering from gallstones.  They confirmed that:

  • His average consumption was within the normal acceptable levels.
  • Alcohol had not played a part in the development of his condition.
  • Blood tests and scans did not indicate he had consumed alcohol on a chronic and regular basis for a long period of time.
  • There was no evidence that he was consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.

In addition to this, M’s manager confirmed to the DVLA that due to M’s role at work, he had to undertake a breathalyser at the start of every shift which he had always passed.  Despite this, it was 10 months before the DVLA reinstated M’s driving licence (but subject to a medical review and not his HGV licence).

The effect on M was sizeable.  He was no longer able to work as a mobile crane driver and had to find alternative employment.  He suffered from symptoms of chronic depression and anxiety as a result of the loss of his licence and its traumatic impact on his life for which our psychology expert recommended a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Fortunately we were able to resolve the claim relatively quickly for M which settled for a 5 figure sum.

This case shows that mistakes by medical professionals can affect people in a variety of ways.  If you have been injured in any way by medical treatment, please get in touch for some free, no obligation advice by one of our specialist solicitors.

Kathryn Watson – May 2021