Tag Archives: compensation

Small change in the discount rate still favours the Claimant

The discount rate is a percentage that is applied in claims where an injured person receives compensation now but this is to cover losses that they are expected to incur the future.  There is accelerated receipt of the money and the court therefore assumes that the injured person will invest their compensation and earn interest on it.

Between 2001 and 2017 the discount rate was set at 2.5%.  This was very favourable to the Defendants and it meant that if a Claimant was claiming 20 years’ worth of lost earnings the Defendants would only need to pay out just over 15 years’ worth as it was assumed the Claimant would be able to cover the missing years with the interest they had earned.

For many years, Claimant’s solicitors and organisations representing injured people said this was not good enough and that Claimants were being short changed.  They could not cover the loss with low risk investments as had previously been anticipated.

The Government, by way of the Lord Chancellor, did not look at this again until 2017 when the discount rate fell to -0.75%.

This caused a tidal wave of responses as insurance companies and the NHS lobbied for the discount rate to be reviewed again immediately as it would cost them millions in additional damages despite the savings they had previously and unjustly been making.  It was a very good time to settle claims for the Claimant as instead of recovering 20 years’ worth of lost earnings they were suddenly recovering nearly 22 years’ worth and the greater the period of loss, the greater the additional recovery for the Claimant.

In just over 2 years the Lord Chancellor announced the result of a review of the discount rate which was to be applied from 5 August 2019.  The new rate of -0.25% has increased but only marginally so, much to the chagrin of Defendants and their representatives who had expected a result much closer to the previous 2.5% rate.

While this is good news for the Claimant, it should be noted that the Government are clearly now going to review the discount rate more regularly and given the length of time it takes to settle the high value multi track cases where discount rates are applicable, there is no certainty that a case you take on today will reap the benefits of such a low discount rate by the time compensation is awarded in 4 years’ time!

Ashleigh Holt – September 2019

The First 100 Years Project – a History of Women in Law

I recently had the pleasure of hearing about this project in a talk to a packed conference from an inspiring lady Dana Denis-Smith, creator of the project. She explained that the hope is this endeavour will record in both writing and a video library the experiences of women in the legal profession since they were allowed to join in 1919 and help to demonstrate the progress made by women in legal careers over the last 100 years.

I am ashamed to admit that despite being a female solicitor I had little knowledge of the journey taken by and the hardships endured by my predecessors whose actions have allowed me to practice law today. I was fascinated to hear the stories of these women whose determination, perseverance and courage paved the way for all future women wanting to enter a career in law.

100 years ago the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was passed, without which women would never have even been able to  be accepted into this and many other professions previously considered only suitable for men. However, even before the 1919 Act there were pioneers fighting for the right to join this males only profession. Janet Wood in 1878 became the first female to complete a law degree despite the fact she was not allowed to be officially granted the degree she had passed with first class honours! Later came Eliza Orme who in 1879 was refused permission to sit the Law Society exams to become a solicitor. Despite this she persevered in pursuit of this career and in 1888 became the first woman to actually earn and receive the law degree she had studied for at University College London, although she could not then practice law. Finally in 2020 Madge Easton Anderson had the privilege of becoming the first female solicitor admitted to the Law Society after the passing of the 1919 Act.

The Project has researched and recorded as many of the very inspiring women and trailblazers who irrevocably changed for the better women’s opportunities in this profession. In addition to this they have taken video diaries from many inspiring female legal professionals still alive, whose stories of their fight to be given equal rights and opportunities, even fairly recently, are recorded forever for future generations. I imagine it will be hard for the next generation of women to believe there was ever a time when they had no freedom to choose their profession and that is testament to the incredible women included within this project.

The Digital Museum and all other information about this remarkable “First 100 Years” project can be found on their website https://first100years.org.uk

Joanne Davies – August 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

Government now picking up the tab for GP errors

Historically, GPs and any staff in general practice, including nurses, needed to arrange their own personal indemnity cover with a medical defence organisation in order to indemnify them in claims against them for medical negligence.  This would be in a similar way to you or I arranging insurance cover against loss or damage caused by us or others to our cars or our homes.  However, the position for all claims arising from incidents that occurred on or after 1 April 2019 against anyone working in primary care NHS services is that they will now be handled by NHS Resolution under the Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice.  (CNSGP).

The main function of NHS Resolution, formerly known as NHS Litigation Authority is to manage claims made against the NHS  in England.  The main reason for the introduction of this latest scheme is to reduce the cost of indemnity cover for individual health care providers but what are the benefits and pitfalls for the Claimant.

NHS Resolution have been doing this type of work for many, many years so they are well versed in how to manage the claims and having one single point of contact for claimants will be helpful in those cases where the GP or staff member has moved on and the Claimant is having difficulty tracing them or confirming their medical defence organisation details and whether they indeed had indemnity cover.  It will also allow scope for other settlement options that weren’t open to GPs previously such as periodical payment orders i.e., where the injured party receives an annual sum for an element or elements of the claim rather than one large lump sum.  This is usually applicable in cases involving catastrophic injuries and this type of settlement can be very attractive to such injured claimants.

NHS Resolution is however not a perfect model.  We routinely see claims being defended, despite admissions of unacceptable treatment being previously made by way of complaints or the Trust’s own root cause analysis investigations.  The cases then have to be pursued and litigated increasing the costs in the claim and the amount of time it takes to reach a settlement.

At this early stage, it is too early to tell if this is a good move but what we can almost certainly guarantee is that we will hear about the increased costs to the tax payer of dealing with these claims.

Ashleigh Holt – 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

Success Rates when you sue the NHS

The latest NHS Annual Report provides some interesting facts that don’t always make it into the mainstream media.  For example:

  • The number of claims made in 2018 was just over 10,000, down from 12,000 in 2013.
  • Only 54% of claims made result in the payment of compensation.
  • 40% of successful claims are worth under £25,000.
  • 40% settle for between £25,000 and £100,000.
  • 20% settle for over £100,000.
  • Claimants legal costs are down 6%.

So, there is no increase in claims, half fail and of the rest, just under half go for under £25,000.  Enforcing your legal rights when something goes wrong is not bankrupting the NHS.  Don’t always believe this myth that we are in the midst of a ‘Compensation Culture’.

Hilton Armstrong, June 2019

Best Medical Claims Law Firm – Northern UK & Leading Specialist in Clinical Negligence Law 2019

I am delighted to announce that we have achieved another award recognising our achievements and specialism in Clinical Negligence in the North East of England. Armstrong Foulkes LLP were successful in being named the “Best Medical Claims Law Firm – Northern UK & Leading Specialist in Clinical Negligence Law 2019” in the inaugural SME Legal Awards. Confirmation of our award can be found at the SME News Website where the press release states

“The legal industry plays a significant role in the UK economy, not only in terms of employment numbers but their overall contribution to the national economy, exports and the UK’s trade. As such, SME News is proud to introduce the inaugural UK Legal Awards to its roster, with the intention to recognise and spotlight the very best that this innovative and competitive industry has to offer.

 As an independent awarding body, business size or reach are not the only deciding factors for our nominations. Rather we focus more on the quality of dedication and innovation within the work done and in forming positive relations with clients.

 Kaven Cooper, Award Coordinator discusses the success of this year’s programme: “It is with great pride that I present the winners of this prestigous awards programme. Congratulations to all my winners, and best of luck for the future.”  

SME News prides itself on the validity of its awards and winners. The awards are given solely on merit and are awarded to commend those most deserving for their ingenuity and hard work, distinguishing them from their competitors and proving them worthy of recognition.”

We pride ourselves on offering a “personal service” where you case is handled by experienced Solicitors practising only in this area of law and with our practice handling cases largely in the local area we can offer availability by in person to speak to your solicitor when required reinforcing our company motto of “personal care for medical claims”. We are honoured to be recognised as a leading firm in Clinical Negligence Law in our area.

Please do visit the SME Legal website for more details at https://www.sme-news.co.uk/2019-the-2019-sme-legal-awards-press-release for the press release and https://www.sme-news.co.uk/2019-armstrong-foulkes-llp for our award page.

As always do not hesitate to contact us and speak to one of our qualified solicitors on 01642 231110 on a no obligation basis if you have suffered medical negligence or have concerns about treatment you have received.

Joanne Davies – May 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

Lexcel Award – excellence in Legal Practice Management and Client Care

We are delighted to announce that following re-assessment in February 2019 our firm were awarded again the Lexcel Award for meeting a high quality of standards in practice management and client care. The Award is made by the Law Society of England & Wales if a firm can demonstrate excellence in the ways they manage the practice and deal with clients. Once awarded there is an annual assessment and a more thorough assessment every 3 years to ensure that a firm continues to meet the requirements for this. We were first awarded this by the Law Society in 2015 and are pleased that we continue to perform to the high standards expected to qualify for this.

Our staff work hard to ensure we maintain the standards in the seven different areas that are assessed:

  1. structure and strategy,
  2. financial management,
  3. information management,
  4. people management,
  5. risk management,
  6. client care,
  7. file and case management.

In many areas we were noted to have met and also exceeded the necessary requirements. The assessor commented that the firm “was a very notable demonstration of Lexcel compliance” and that “it was a pleasure to discover all of the requirements Lexcel standard has been met and no non compliances raised”. We are proud to have qualified for this award again and will continue to strive to meet and exceed these standards in the years to come.

Joanne Davies – April 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

Favourable changes in claims for surrogacy

As a firm we have previously acted for clients who have lost the ability to conceive and carry a child naturally as a result of medical negligence.  Until very recently our hands have been tied as to what our clients could claim for.  We have been able to recover as compensation the costs of IVF treatment and in some cases for our clients to engage a surrogate in the UK to carry a child on their behalf and the expenses associated with this but there are strict limits which reflect the current law in the UK which in turn have meant a limit on compensation levels.

Despite surrogacy becoming increasingly popular and accepted, the law in the UK has not quite kept up with this so while surrogacy is legal, it is also restricted, particularly when compared to the laws in other countries such as the USA.  Notably:

  1. In the UK no one can profit from surrogacy.  Therefore the surrogate can only claim her expenses.
  2. In the UK, once the child is born, the surrogate is regarded as the legal mother.  This is even the case where the surrogate has carried someone else’s biological child.  A court order is required to give the intended parents the correct legal status and it is possible for the birth mother to refuse to part with the child.
  3. In the UK, the surrogate will chose the parent/parents she wants to assist.  This is often done at “parties” which can be intimidating and frightening for couples who have already been dealt a vicious blow.

In the recent case of XX and Whittington Hospital NHS Trust (2017) EWHC 2318 QB, a High Court Judge held that XX’s claim for the expenses of using a surrogate in California where commercial surrogacy is widely accepted and legal were not recoverable because commercial arrangements in the UK were illegal and it was against public policy.  He therefore limited XX’s claim to using her own egg’s and a surrogate in the UK and the associated costs of that.  The total compensation he allowed for this was £74,000 which was intend to produce two children.

Despite the damning judgement, the Judge did suggest that the Supreme Court which is the final court of appeal in the UK may see things differently.  XX was therefore allowed to appeal this decision and the matter was heard at the Court of Appeal in November 2018.  The outcome was that her appeal was successful and it was held that she should not be barred from recovering reasonable compensation for her loss which would include the costs or entering into a lawful commercial surrogacy contract in California.  She would not be breaking any laws.

This is an exciting development in this area of the law.  Claimants from the UK who need to engage a surrogate can now claim the costs entering into a contract with a surrogate in the USA who essentially carries and gives birth to other people’s children for a living.  Claimant’s will now no longer be restricted to having to use their own eggs but will be able to use donor eggs from a surrogate of their choice or another donor and they will be able to return to the UK with the child legally theirs.

The obvious downside to this in terms of the “public purse” is the difference in cost.  In the USA, to produce two live births via a surrogate the associated costs will run into perhaps hundreds of thousands but to someone who has been told they will not be able to have a child, no amount of compensation can restore them to how they would have been but for the negligence.

If you have been affected by infertility as a result of failed or unacceptable medical treatment, please contact us to discuss this further.

Ashleigh Holt – January 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

Second Opinions – how to get them

A lot of what Doctors and lawyers tell you is their opinion and not necessarily factual.  As professionals we need to exercise our judgment based on our experience.  Often what we say is not what you want to hear, but it is our job to tell it as we see it.

So, for example your doctor may tell you that after looking at the scans your cancer is inoperable and only palliative care is required.  Or, the slipped disc in your back requires surgery that may result in you having to give up sport or work.

From the patient or client’s point of view sometimes this can be hard to comprehend and accept.  So what can you do if you are not convinced by what your doctor has told you?  You need to follow these steps:

  1. Ask the doctor to explain again. Step by step, and slowly.  Are they absolutely certain that their view is correct?  At this point your doctor will probably accept that there is a range of opinion but go on to explain why they think they are right.
  2. If you still feel unconvinced by their explanation ask them if they would object to you obtaining a second opinion. They are unlikely to disagree.  Usually they will recommend one of their colleagues, or alternatively you may have your own idea of who to go to.
  3. If your treatment is under the NHS it is even possible to choose a doctor from outside the hospital you are being treated at. If that is the case you would need to contact them and make arrangements for a consultation.  If you are paying privately then you would have to pay for the second opinion.
  4. When you see the new doctor after a discussion they will give you their own opinion. It may be the same as your original doctor or it may be different. If different you will need to talk about transferring your care to the new doctor.

It is important to understand that by asking for a second opinion you are not falling out with your doctor.  They will not be offended at all.  On the contrary they will probably encourage it as they will feel a lot more comfortable about your intended treatment if another doctor agrees with them.

Hilton Armstrong – October 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

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)

To run a case Lawyers collect and process a lot of information on clients including some personal data e.g. date of birth, email address, national insurance number, passport or driving licence number etc.  We also share this data with others e.g. experts we instruct, the Barrister on the case, the Defendants solicitors etc.  We have to do this or we couldn’t pursue the claim.

The law is changing on 25 May 2018.  This is when the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) comes into force.  It impose obligations on all organisations (not just us Lawyers) to look after this personal data safely, process it lawfully and restrict its access by others.  Clients have the right to see this data and have it deleted at any time, although insisting on deletion whilst a case is ongoing would of course not be practical.

I think GDPR is good news for all of us.  It should ensure that our personal data is looked after more securely by all organisations and not passed on or sold to others without our specific consent.  I am hoping the amount of spam emails and the unsolicited calls and texts we are all plagued by at the moment substantially reduces.  Fingers crossed, although I am not holding my breath!

Hilton Armstrong – June 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

The problems for and with Junior Doctors

The title “Junior doctor” can relate to someone just out of medical school or someone who is as much as 5 years out of medical school.

In many hospitals across the UK you will find very junior doctors covering hospitals, particularly at night, with very little support however the responsibility for clinical decisions will still always lie with senior medical staff.

Having such junior staff in very busy departments such as the Emergency Department (ED, formerly A&E) can present a problem for the hospital but also the patient.  This short article will deal with just a few of the issues arising from junior doctors.

  • Junior doctors can be overly cautious.  Just by the nature of the career they have chosen to follow, we know they are high achievers in life and have so far done very well.  They are terrified of making mistakes and this is likely to happen when they start treating real patients.  Much of the work in ED is making numerous decisions and not making the right one can be a terrifying prospect.
  • Junior doctors can be inclined to inherit another doctor’s thinking rather than apply their own judgement.  This can be a particular problem when they are involved in handovers and at the end of shifts.  This can also be a factor in cases involving recurrent attending patients if the junior doctor does not look beyond what his colleague wrote in the notes a week before and he/she fails to listen to the patient or carer.  This can lead to the correct diagnosis being missed.
  • Junior doctors are overworked particularly during night shifts when they are tired and more likely to make a mistake and there is less supervision.
  • Junior doctors by their nature are very inexperienced and this will be apparent in their judgement.  They will struggle with young children as patients.  Quite often this is because the junior doctors have never been around young babies or infants and in most cases will not have started families themselves.  They also struggle with neurological injuries and issues particularly involving the spinal cord or patients with multiple injuries.  All of this increases the risk of them forgetting/missing something.
  • Junior doctors can be pressured to make unsafe clinical decisions.  In many cases the junior doctor will ask for a speciality review (e.g. surgical review for a patient with suspected appendicitis) or ask for some complex imaging such as an MRI.  However in many cases the junior doctor is unable to assert themselves to get someone to see their patient or to get agreement for a scan to go ahead and they accept what in some cases turns out to be unsafe advice to discharge the patient.

The NHS is attempting to minimise mistakes and provide all staff with more support systems and standard operating systems.  For example, many hospitals/Trusts now have specialist teams set up to deal with patients suffering from life threatening and changing conditions such as strokes, sepsis or cardiac arrests.  They are trying to ensure that there is more senior review available and they continue to introduce safety netting policies to cover a range of situations however calamitous mistakes continue to be made and in some cases the mistake was avoidable.

If you are concerned about any treatment or care you have had which you believe has caused you to suffer an injury, please do not hesitate to contact us and speak to one of our specialist solicitors.

Ashleigh Holt – May 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

Not all claims are against GPs or Hospitals

When people think about “Medical Negligence” their minds typically jump to claims against the NHS or GP surgeries. While these types of claim are the most common they are not the only claims that we handle and we often bring claims against less obvious defendants. I’ve set out a few lesser known potential defendants below:

Care Homes/Nursing Homes – Other than hospitals and GPs practices claims against care homes or nursing homes are among the most common that we handle. When you or a loved one becomes a resident of a home like this the company and its staff have a duty to provide an adequate standard of care. If they fail to provide this standard of care, for example by failing to do enough to prevent the person from falling or developing pressure sores, a claim for negligence may arise.

The Ambulance Service – The ambulance service is often the first point of contact with the medical profession someone experiences after an accident or an emergency and the care they provide (or fail to provide) can have very serious consequences. Whilst the paramedics who were on the scene may have acted correctly, it can sometimes be the initial assessment by the ambulance dispatcher that was incorrect, resulting in a delay in attending which might have caused the injury to be worse or in some cases death.

Pharmacies – It is very important that the medication prescribed by doctors is provided correctly. A pharmacy providing incorrect medication, or an incorrect dose of the medication, can result in a claim for negligence if this failure causes you an injury.

Community Nursing – The care provided by community nurses in peoples own homes is another common source of medical negligence claims. Most typically these claims arise from a failure of the nurses to take action when wounds or pressure injuries develop.

Private Surgeons – People are often under the assumption that just because they paid privately for their treatment they are unable to bring a legal claim if this isn’t of an acceptable standard. This is completely incorrect and a private surgeon owes you the same duty to take reasonable care when treating you that an NHS doctor does.

While the above examples describe some of the more common claims we handle every medical negligence claim is different. If you believe that you may have been the victim of medical negligence, whoever provided this care, we can assist by providing free advice as to whether or not you might have a claim, don’t hesitate to call us on 01642 231110.

Dan Richardson – February 2018

Legal 500 Tier 1 ranking – We’ve done it again!!

Armstrong Foulkes has proudly retained its Tier 1 ranking in The Legal 500 2017 database of lawyers and solicitors in the UK.  No other firm specialising or working in clinical negligence in the Teesside area has been awarded this accolade and as specialists in this field we are elated that this has come just after celebrating the 25th anniversary of Armstrong Foulkes opening its doors in Middlesbrough.

After interviewing our clients and other legal professionals we work with Armstrong Foulkes LLP is described as having “an unrivalled and enviable reputation in the region of clinical negligence work.”  The three partners in the firm were acknowledged for their efforts in this field.  Joanne Davies is set apart with her “excellent understanding of medical issues and always gets outstanding results”.  Ashleigh Holt is described as “highly efficient” and Hilton Armstrong who leads the firm is “a clever, committed and passionate advocate who achieves excellent results in an unfussy manner”.

Joanne Davies said “We are proud and delighted that the firm has been recognised for the specialist service we provide in this type of claim and particularly pleased that the dedication of our solicitors on behalf of our clients has been both highlighted and praised.”

Ashleigh Holt – November 2017

Our 25th anniversary!

On 1 October 1992, Hilton Armstrong and Peter Foulkes set up Armstrong Foulkes, with their intention being to set up a firm of solicitors specialising in clinical negligence and personal injury.  At the time, there were no other firms in the area that specialised in clinical negligence and we were the first firm in Teesside to have a legal aid contract for clinical negligence and the only one to have such a contract for many years.

Peter retired on 1 October 2013 when Joanne Davies and Ashleigh Holt became partners and Armstrong Foulkes became Armstrong Foulkes LLP, a limited liability partnership.

Throughout the past 25 years, the firm has gone from strength to strength and is nationally recognised as being a leading clinical negligence firm.  We are described in Chambers and Partners, which ranks lawyers worldwide, as a “specialist boutique with a superb reputation for handling complex clinical negligence claims. Advises and represents clients on a wide range of matters, including child brain injury and surgical negligence cases, and also handles claims concerning delayed diagnoses.”  The top firms are ranked from Band 1 to 6 (with 1 being the highest ranking achievable) and we are pleased that we continue to hold a Band 1 ranking and have done for many years now.

The firm now comprises 5 fee earners – Hilton, Joanne and Ashleigh (the partners) and Kathryn and Dan (solicitors).  We also have 4 support staff – Liz (who has been with the firm since the outset), Caroline, Jan and Honor.

Hilton says specialising in clinical negligence suits his personality as it requires great attention to detail.  This is a trait of his that is recognised in Chambers and Partners as he is noted to be “technically very competent, very thorough and will go the extra distance to investigate a case to see if there is something in it.”  As well as ranking firms of solicitors, Chambers and Partners also ranks the top solicitors in the country and Hilton continues to hold a Band 1 ranking.  Ashleigh and Joanne are also recommended.

The partners have yet to decide how we are going to celebrate the 25 year milestone but we have been assured it will be something to look forward to!  In the meantime, in true Armstrong Foulkes style, we have celebrated with cake!

cake

If you would like to speak to one of our solicitors for advice about a potential clinical negligence claim, please telephone us on 01642 231110.

Kathryn Watson, October 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