Tag Archives: Chambers & Partners

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

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

Surveillance and Fundamental Dishonesty

Defendants in clinical negligence cases often challenge the claims we put forward on behalf of our clients, and in particular, assert that the injury has had a more minimal effect than we have alleged.  They can do this on the basis of their medical evidence (from the expert doctors they have instructed to assist them with the case) but also by surveillance.

A Defendant is entitled to investigate whether what a Claimant says about of the effect of their injuries upon their lifestyle is genuine.  Whilst they are entitled to do this in any case, in practice, they mainly tend to do it only when a person is severely disabled and their day to day activities are limited as a result.

In our experience there are 2 main ways in which they do this:

  1. Looking at a person’s social media presence, i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. A Defendant can ask a Judge to order a Claimant to provide copies of their posts, photographs etc. for them to consider.
  1. If we claim that a person is housebound, has problems walking, getting in and out of cars or needs help with shopping or doing things outside of the home, the Defendant may check to see if this is genuine. This could involve filming that person, for example, driving, attending the supermarket or at public events to see if the injuries and limitations are consistent what we have claimed.

The benefit to a Defendant if they can show a Claimant is not as badly affected as alleged is twofold.  Firstly, it will help them prove that the level of damages the Claimant is due is less.  Secondly, and more importantly, the Court has power to dismiss the entirety of a claim if it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Claimant has been “fundamentally dishonest” in relation to any aspect of the claim.

This is nothing to worry about and certainly not a reason to avoid looking into bringing a medical negligence claim if you think you may have received substandard treatment.  The vast majority of Claimants are honest and accurately report their symptoms and the effect any injury has had on them.  However, it is something to bear in mind if you are bringing a claim, especially if you are thinking of trying things you previously thought impossible.  In this situation, we would ask that you keep us informed so we can make sure that the Defendant and our experts are aware of it. If you find these changes last for just a short period of time, it will prevent a situation where the Defendant believes they have evidence that you are more able than we have previously stated.

If you would like to discuss this further or think you may have a claim for medical negligence and would like some advice from one of our solicitors, please contact us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson – April 2018

Another excellent rating for the Firm – Band 1 in Chambers & Partners!

I am delighted to announce that following on from our Tier 1 rating in Legal 500 (see article 01/11/2017) we have been again awarded the highest rating (Band 1) for excellence in clinical negligence work in the Teesside area. This rating is given by a prestigious guide to UK Lawyers entitled “Chambers & Partners” where we are described as a “Specialist boutique with a superb reputation for handling complex clinical negligence claims”. These ratings are reviewed annually and based on interviews with our clients and barristers with whom we work and the feedback they give on our solicitors and the firm in general.

Our 3 partners were singled out for praise for their work, Hilton Armstrong is described as “very friendly, very approachable; he’s lovely to deal with”, Joanne Davies (neé Dennison) is “very reliable, very bright and always gives me the information I need” and Ashleigh Holt is praised for the way she handles a range of complex clinical negligence matters.

One client stated “They have made it very easy for me, and have taken a lot of stress away”. This alone makes us feel we are doing our job well as our priority is always our clients and ensuring that what can be a difficult experience is as stress free as possible. We are, however, equally proud when recognised for the hard work we do on our clients’ behalf and this ranking is a reflection of the dedication of the entire team from our admin staff to the Partners. If you would like any information on this please do not hesitate to contact us or read the review for yourself using the link below.

https://www.chambersandpartners.com/16346/140/editorial/1/1

Joanne Davies (neé Dennison) – March 2018

Bereavement Damages – a long overdue change on its way?

There is a fixed amount of money that is awarded to certain close relatives when someone dies in an accident.  It applies to medical claims and other accidents when someone else is proved to be at fault.  The sum is fixed by Parliament and is currently £12,980 and is called a ‘bereavement award’.  It is Parliament’s financial assessment of the amount of money needed to compensate you for your grief and suffering from losing a loved one.

However, injustices have arisen (not only because the amount is small) but also because the people who are entitled to claim is limited by Parliament in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.  Surviving spouses (or civil partners) and the parents of children under 18 years of age are the only two groups who are eligible.  If you are cohabitees or a parent of a child over the age of 18 you are not entitled.  As about 17% of couples now living together are either not married or in a civil partnership it affects a lot of people.

Some of this injustice may be remedied shortly.  A recent Court of Appeal case (Smith –v- Lancashire Teaching Hospitals) has declared that to exclude cohabitees is not compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998.  What does this mean?  Sadly nothing for Miss Smith but there is now a hope that Parliament will look again at its definition of who can claim and extend it to cohabitees.  However, with all things Brexit preoccupying the Government I am not hopeful this will be sorted any time soon.

Hilton Armstrong – December 2017

Surgery abandoned due to a lack of beds

Due to abdominal pain Mr M was scheduled to have his gall bladder removed at the James Cook University Hospital in early 2015. It was intended that this procedure would be “keyhole” surgery with the option to convert to open surgery should this become necessary. If the “keyhole” surgery was successful then Mr M would be treated as a day case and allowed home the same day, if an open procedure (traditional “non-keyhole” surgery) was required then he would need to be kept in hospital overnight and so would need an inpatient bed.

Mr M attended James Cook University hospital as arranged and was taken down for surgery shortly after. Before he was put under general anaesthetic there was some concern as there were no inpatient beds available, but Mr M was nevertheless put to sleep and his surgery was started. It quickly became apparent that Mr M would in fact require the open version of the surgery and so needed an inpatient bed. As no beds were available Mr M’s surgery had to be abandoned.

When Mr M came round after his surgery he was told what happened and sent home. Mr M suffered cuts and bruising where his surgery had been started and was in pain for almost 2 weeks, during which time he was unable to work.

A few weeks after the abandoned surgery Mr M returned to the James Cook University Hospital and his gall bladder was removed successfully by open surgery.

Although Mr M was always going to need the open version of the surgery we were able to argue that his initial surgery should not have been started when no inpatient beds were available. Although it was intended that the procedure would be tried as “keyhole” surgery the need to convert to open surgery was always a possibility. Due to the hospital’s failure to make sure a bed would be available if he needed it prior to the surgery Mr M received an unnecessary general anaesthetic and suffered two painful cuts.

After coming to see us we were quickly able to put the case to the hospital, who admitted they were at fault straight away. After a short negotiation Mr M agreed to settle the claim for £3,500, less than a year after we took the case on. Thanks to an early admission of liability (legal blame) by the hospital we were able to settle this claim quickly and ensured that Mr M received the compensation he was due as early as possible.

While not all cases will proceed as quickly as this Armstrong Foulkes’ years of specialist experience working exclusively in medical negligence ensures that we are always in a position to give you the best possible advice in relation to your claim.

Dan Richardson, October 2017

Fixing the amount of Costs in Clinical Negligence Claims

Our solicitors and indeed the profession have awaited with some dread Lord Justice Jackson’s review of costs in civil matters which includes clinical negligence claims. It was suggested that there should be a fixed amount of costs allowed for claims up to a certain value, whether it is a contract dispute, a neighbour dispute or a complex clinical negligence claim. This was worrying because this took no account of the very individual nature of clinical negligence claims, where each claim, like each person is very different. Two people could, for example, have suffered the same mistake or be misdiagnosed with the same condition but the reasons for this, the investigation and the effect on them can be completely different needing an individual approach to each claim. It was always our view that a “one size fits all” system would only lead to people being denied the thorough investigation they deserve.

The costs paid by the defendant that the media and the NHS repeatedly complain are too high and who portray solicitors as “bleeding the NHS dry” are not a “windfall” for solicitors as has been claimed. They include the costs of multiple medical experts whose involvement can in large value cases cost tens of thousands of pounds and the fees for specialist barristers to advise on the case and represent the Claimant at Court. Cases proceeding to Trial involve solicitors’ costs for work over generally 3-6 years, some even longer. Limiting costs available to pursue a claim can, in our opinion, only result eventually in being unable to properly investigate a claim. Being denied the opportunity to fully investigate and subsequently being denied justice could result in the loss of the much needed compensation that allows those injured to live with the effects of the negligence and improve their life.

Lord Justice Jackson’s review, published in July, has recommended many changes and has thankfully rejected a “one size fits all” system. However the most significant proposal for the work we do is to suggest limiting the level of costs for Clinical Negligence work in cases with a value of up to £25,000. At each stage in the case there will be a fixed amount of costs available. This is not ideal and will include cases which are very complex and emotional to investigate but lower in value such as errors causing the deaths of children. It remains to be seen how or when this process will be finalised and there is a lot more work to be done before then but it is clear there will be implementation in the future of a fixed amount of costs to some clinical negligence cases.

Here at Armstrong Foulkes our solicitors are always available to discuss a potential case and advise you of your options irrespective of the value or level of injury. Please do not hesitate to contact us for a free no-obligation chat on 01642 231110.

Joanne Davies – September 2017

Why choose a specialist?

If you are looking for a Solicitor to handle your medical claim, then you will probably do the following:

  1. Search the internet.
  2. See an advert in your local paper or on TV.
  3. Listen to a friend, relation or colleague.
  4. Contact your family Solicitor.

Nowadays, lots of Solicitors are doing Clinical Negligence work but that does not mean they are specialists.  They are turning their hand to it because they are short of work.  Their adverts are very good and they will promise you the world: e.g. “we expect to settle your claim within 6 to 12 months” or “we have successfully recovered compensation for thousands of injured people” and so on.  This is all rubbish.

So, why should you go to a specialist like us?  There is only one reason:

Would you be happy if a Neurosurgeon was going to remove your appendix, or if an Orthopaedic Surgeon operated on your brain?  Both are very competent in their own field but you would be a fool to trust them if they strayed out of their area of expertise – so why do it with your medical claim?

We only deal with medical claims for injured people on Teesside and in the North East.  We have years of experience which enable us to get you the best result for you, both in terms of compensation and answers.

We have national recognition and are listed in Chambers and The Legal 500:

Ring us today at 01642 231110 and we will tell you if you have a claim worth pursuing.  You will speak to an experienced Solicitor who will give you straightforward answers.

Hilton Armstrong – February 2017

Chambers & Partners 2016 – Highest Band 1 ranking retained

We are proud to announce that Armstrong Foulkes LLP has retained its status as the only Band 1 recommended firm dealing with clinical negligence for injured patients in Middlesbrough and surrounds in the 2016 edition of Chambers and Partners which was published at the end of last year.  The ranking, which is the highest accolade awarded by Chambers and Partners assessed things which matter to our clients such as our technical legal ability, our professional conduct, our client service, our diligence and our commitment among other qualities most valued by clients.  Comments included:

“They specialise in clinical negligence work. They know what they are about and get good results for their clients.”

“They are very compassionate, the communication is excellent and they are extremely efficient and in-depth in their research.”

In addition, all three of our Partners – Hilton Armstrong, Joanne Dennison and Ashleigh Holt – were also ranked in the prestigious guide which identifies and ranks the most outstanding law firms and lawyers around the world.

Ashleigh Holt of Armstrong Foulkes LLP said “By achieving this ranking we feel very proud to be able to represent injured patients in the Tees Valley and surrounding areas and to continue to do our very best for them.”

Ashleigh Holt – January 2017