Tag Archives: doctor negligence

Coronary disease misdiagnosed as tennis elbow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashleigh Holt – February 2019

The Legal 500 UK 2019 awards

We were delighted to have been shortlisted for this prestigious national award.  We didn’t win it but managed to get down to the final 8 firms in the country! The category we were in was:

  • Insurance: Individual: outside of London of the year – Hilton Armstrong

According to Legal 500 “Over many months of thorough research, we have conducted 70,000 interviews with in-house counsel, law firms and sets in the UK to pin-point the most capable, expert practitioners and firms operating at the top of their game across a number of different business sectors. The awards are unique in the legal industry as they recognise each element of the profession equally, representing the very best law firms, chambers, silks, in-house lawyers, business leaders and general counsel operating within the UK market”

The full list of categories is available  here:

The shortlists for the law firm awards are available to view here: https://www.legal500.com/assets/pages/awards/uk/2019/uk-2019-firms-shortlist.html

Hilton Armstrong – February 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

Hospitals are responsible for the advice given by receptionists! – Darnley v Croydon Health Services NHS Trust

The Supreme Court have this month ruled that incorrect information on waiting times at A&E given by a  receptionist at the Mayday Hospital, Croydon resulting in permanent brain damage could be considered negligent. The Court decided that it justified an award of compensation in the same way as incorrect doctor’s advice or treatment would.

Mr Darnley attended A&E with a head injury and feeling very unwell, only to be told by the receptionist that there was a 4 or 5 hour waiting time before he could be seen by a doctor. After waiting for 19 minutes and feeling very unwell he left unable to face the prospect of several hours wait. He was returned to hospital later that night as an emergency. He was diagnosed as suffering a large bleed on the brain and despite surgery he suffered permanent brain damage. He and his legal team argued that he been treated sooner or immediately on collapse he would have made a nearly full recovery.  He made a claim for compensation against the NHS Trust who run the hospital for the brain damage suffered and its effect on his life.

The A&E receptionists working there agreed that in this situation they would usually advise a patient would seen by a Triage Nurse in 30 minutes and/or would consider priority Triage but neither admitted to giving the mistaken advice. Mr Darnley argues that if he had been told this he would never have left hospital after 19 minutes and the bleed would have been diagnosed and treated sooner. When this was first heard by a Judge the claim was unsuccessful. It was appealed and the Court of Appeal ruled that it was not negligent for incorrect advice on waiting times to be given by the receptionist and that the injury was not caused by this in any event.

Mr Darnley then appealed this further to the Supreme Court who have this month ruled that a receptionist giving waiting time advice in an A&E department like this has a duty of care to the patients to act appropriately. They are responsible for the advice given in the same way any medical professional is. These receptionists/non-medical staff were given the role by the Trust as the first point of contact and owed a duty to the patients. They also stated that there was a direct link between this advice on waiting times and the injury he suffered as a result and that earlier diagnosis would have resulted in admission and earlier treatment with a nearly full recovery.

This is an important case as it establishes that incorrect advice from non-medical staff working for NHS Trusts, in particular an A&E receptionist, which results in an injury to a person could justify a claim for damages like any other compensation claim arising out of negligence by medical professionals. The circumstances of each case and whether the  advice caused an injury will need to be considered but if you feel you have been in a situation like this please do not hesitate to speak to one of our solicitors on 01642 231110 for a free no obligation chat.

Joanne Davies – 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

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

Changes to requests for copy medical records

As a patient, you have a right to see and obtain copies of your medical records (see our previous post https://armstrongfoulkes.co.uk/your-rights-to-access-medical-records/). However, with the introduction of GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, the rules surrounding such a request for copy records have changed.

Data Protection Act 2018

Under the new rules, a patient still has a right to request copies of their medical records and the procedure for doing so remains the same.  However, whereas before the organisation holding the records (such as a hospital or GP practice) could charge up to a maximum of £50 to provide copies, there should now be no charge unless the request is “manifestly unfounded or excessive”.  Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, you should be able to obtain copies of your records free of charge.

The new rules also provide that you should receive copies of your records more quickly than previously.  Under the old rules, a provider had 40 days to provide copies whereas this has now been reduced to 1 month from receipt of the request.

Access to Health Records Act 1990

The new rules only apply to request for copy records for a living person and therefore the rules relating to requests for records of someone who has died have not changed.  Such requests are still governed by the Access to Health Records Act 1990.  This act says that the person providing the records is entitled to charge a fee and there is no maximum amount.

We are always happy to speak to you if you need assistance or advice on obtaining your records or about any possible claim. Please feel free to call one of our specialist solicitors on 01642 231110 for a free no obligation chat.

Kathryn Watson – August 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

Failure to monitor fetal heart beat leads to stillbirth

Mrs P was 38 weeks pregnant with her second child, a daughter, when she became concerned that she that she had not felt the baby move.  She was referred to hospital by her community midwife and a Consultant Obstetrician admitted her to hospital for the her labour to be induced.  This decision was reversed later the same day by a locum Registrar and Mrs P was discharged.  During the night Mrs P felt her baby move but the movements then stopped and by the following morning Mrs P was feeling contractions.  She was admitted to the delivery suite at the hospital after lunch again with a view that her labour would be induced.

At 18.30 pm the continuous monitoring of Mrs P’s baby was stopped.  Mrs P was moved to a ward later that night and was told that her labour would not be induced until the next morning.  Mrs P’s baby was not monitored again until 9.25 am the following day but the midwife was unable to locate the heartbeat and an ultrasound scan confirmed that Mrs P’s daughter had died.

Mrs P gave birth later that day.  Mr and Mrs P thought their daughter looked perfect.  They were able to dress and bathe her.  At their request no post mortem was carried out and no cause for her death was identified.  Mrs P subsequently suffered a major depression and required counselling.

We were instructed to investigate the standard of care Mrs P had received.  However, in this instance the hospital also commenced early investigations.  An early Letter of Claim to the Trust was following by a full admission of liability in failing to monitor Mrs P’s baby after 18.30 and deliver her earlier so that she would have survived.  Despite the early admission NHS Resolution acting on behalf of the Trust failed to make reasonable offers of compensation in settlement and refused to negotiate so we were forced to start court proceedings.  However, solicitors instructed to act for the Trust made an increased offer which was accepted by Mrs P.

The compensation awarded to Mrs P was made up of a sum for her pain, suffering and loss of amenity but was also to compensate her for past and future financial losses she had and would incur such as the cost of a layette which is the items a new baby needs such as vests and bottles and future counselling.

What we were unable to recover for Mrs P is a statutory bereavement award (currently set at £12,980) because her daughter was not been born alive however the Court regularly awards a sum “equivalent” to a bereavement award and our assessment of the damages recovered in this case included this and ultimately was not challenged by the Defendant.

No amount of compensation can replace what this family lost but in pursuing this claim Mrs P has ensured that she is able to keep her daughter’s memory alive.

A stillbirth is an unimaginable and devastating outcome of what should be the happiest of times.  If you have suffered an injury as a result of treatment given to you during your pregnancy or the delivery of your child, please contact us to discuss this further.

Ashleigh Holt – March 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

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

Pressure sores whilst in intensive care

Mrs J was admitted to hospital in October 2012 with sepsis and multi organ failure and she was not expected to survive.  She required admission to the intensive care unit where she remained for 2 months, for much of which she was in a coma.  Fortunately, she pulled through but when she regained consciousness, she was told she was paraplegic as a result of her condition and had developed pressure sores to her sacrum, buttock and heel which took a long time to heal.

It was the evidence of nursing expert that the pressure sores developed because of the hospital’s failure to reposition her whilst she was so unwell.  The hospital claimed that she was too unwell to be moved and if they had tried to reposition her, she probably would have died.  However, our expert was of the opinion that if this was the case, she should have been nursed on a specialist bed and mattress which would have turned her and the pressure injuries would have been prevented.

The hospital defended this case throughout and only accepted our offer of settlement for a 5 figure sum a few weeks before Trial.  The claim was limited to damages for the pain and suffering Mrs J experienced as all of the expenses she had would have been incurred in any event as a result of her paraplegia and not because of any negligence on the part of the hospital.

Kathryn Watson, August 2017

Wrongful removal of a testicle

Kevin was in his mid fifties, single, and had a small benign cyst on his left testicle.  He had put up with it for a number of years.  Eventually he was advised that he should have it (the cyst!) removed.  Tests had confirmed that there was no cancer.  He received assurances that this was all that was to happen.  He went to hospital for what he expected to be a normal procedure for removal of this benign cyst.

After the operation the Consultant was doing his ward round with the trainees.  He announced to his colleague and Kevin that everything had gone to plan but to be safe he had removed the testicle, not just the cyst.  At first Kevin thought he hadn’t heard him correctly.  To say Kevin was angry was an understatement – he was absolutely furious.  Loss of his testicle was something he had wanted to avoid, and assured would not happen.

He came to see us about a claim.  The claim was pursued on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.  Within 8 months and shortly after starting court proceedings we secured a settlement of £15,000 plus payment of legal costs.  In monetary terms this the going rate for a loss of a testicle case as there were no complications or future concerns.

Hilton Armstrong – June 2017

Armstrong Foulkes raises money for local centre for the blind

We are pleased to announce that over the last year Armstrong Foulkes has raised over £950 for a local charity, Teesside and District Society for the Blind.  In addition to our “Trick or Treat Tombola” at Halloween and regular “dress down days” we’ve received significant contributions from staff, clients and friends of Armstrong Foulkes.  Centre Manager, Rona Ashton thanked us for our tremendous effort and explained “the money raised will be put towards our costs for providing social activities for the blind and partially sighted people living in the Teesside area.”

The charity was brought to our attention by one of our client’s who suffered sudden blindness as a result of negligent medical treatment.  In 2010 she developed a recurrence of a condition she had suffered 20 years previously, benign intracranial hypertension. This can cause damage to the optic nerves and consequently visual problems.  A simple lumbar puncture would have revealed this and surgery would have halted the progression of her condition but the diagnosis was missed for over 1 year by which time, surgery was too late and our client lost her sight in her mid 60s.

The Blind Centre made a huge difference to our client in that she was able to meet and socialise with people who were similarly affected.  She enjoys regular days out and even holidays with the centre.  She said in the early days it gave her a reason to get up in the morning.  If you are interested in learning more about the charity please look at their website at www.teessideblind.co.uk

Injuries which arise from negligent medical treatment can be devastating and life changing.  If you have suffered physically or psychologically as a result of poor medical treatment, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Ashleigh Holt – June 2017

How to complain about the medical treatment you have received

Many people contact us because they would like to complain about the medical treatment they have received but are unsure how to go about it.  Alternatively, they may not wish to complain but would like more information or answers to questions they have not had the opportunity of asking or have done so and have not received adequate answers.

You are entitled to complain/ask questions about the treatment you have received.  We advise you send a letter to the Chief Executive of the Trust if the treatment was provided by a hospital or district nurse and to the Practice Manager of your GP practice if it was provided by a GP or practice nurse.  Complaints should normally be made within 12 months of an incident or of the matter coming to your attention.  However, sometimes people understandably don’t feel up to making a complaint so soon after, particularly following a bereavement or serious injury.  If more than 12 months have passed since the subject of your complaint, it may be useful to explain in your letter why you are only able to write the letter now and this may encourage the provider of the treatment to investigate your complaint in any event.

The letter of complaint should set out briefly the background to your complaint and then we recommend you make a list of numbered questions that you would like answering.  This will then enable the investigator of your complaint to respond to each question in turn.  Upon receipt of the complaint, the provider should acknowledge and initiate an investigation.  Once their investigation is complete, which may take some time if it is a complex matter, they will either provide you with a written response or invite you to attend a meeting to discuss the matter further.  Whether you choose to attend the meeting or not is entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable with.  If you do go to a meeting, we advise you to ask for minutes or a recording of the meeting.

Once you have the provider’s response to your complaint, you are entitled to ask further questions if you think the response fails to address all the issues.  If you are not happy with the way the complaint has been dealt with, you can take your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which is independent of the NHS.  They will then look into the matter further for you.

Solicitors are unable to get involved with the complaints process as it is separate from a legal claim.  However, if you suspect you or a family member has been injured as a result of medical negligence and you have made a complaint and would like to know what to do next, or if you would like advice before making a complaint, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01642 231110 and one of our solicitors will be happy to talk to you and provide advice on how best to proceed.

Kathryn Watson – May 2017

Delays during labour lead to hysterectomy for first time mum

Miss G, aged 22, was admitted to hospital to give birth to her first baby.  Her labour was slow and she was given a drug called Syntocinon to try and progress the labour but this failed.  Despite being fully dilated the baby’s head had not descended.  The delivery team discussed using forceps but it was eventually decided that they would need to proceed to an emergency Caesarean Section.  Miss G was delivered of a healthy baby boy but within 3 hours of her son being born she was rushed back to theatre.  Her heart rate was excessively fast, her blood pressure was low, her abdomen was distended and she was bleeding into a drain which had been placed during the earlier procedure.  Miss G required open surgery that evening.  She was found to be bleeding from an extension of the uterine incision which had not been repaired at the time of the Caesarean Section.  This was repaired and the bleeding stopped but over the next few days she remained very unwell and she was commenced on antibiotic therapy.

A week after her son was born Miss G required a second open surgery as a bowel injury was suspected.  No injury to the bowel was identified but the following day she was taken to theatre again for a third open surgery where it was found that her uterus was necrotic.  The only solution was a hysterectomy following which she was transferred to intensive care.

Miss G was discharged from hospital after 3 weeks but required a readmission almost immediately when she haemorrhaged and required treatment for a pseudo aneurysm.  She was an inpatient for a further 2 weeks and then discharged home.  The significant surgical wounds to Mrs G’s abdomen were slow to heal and a year after her son was born she required further surgery to repair a hernia and revise her scarring.

We investigated and pursued a claim for Miss G arising out of the long term, life changing injuries she had suffered and the NHS Litigation Authority accepted on behalf of the Trust which managed the hospital that it was negligent to have delayed in not carrying out a Caesarean Section earlier.  By leaving it so late, it made the operation more complex and it was also negligent to fail to repair the extension of the uterine incision.  These failures led to Miss G’s uterus becoming so severely infected that it had to be removed.  The outcome of this was that while she could have further biological children as her ovaries had been retained, she would not be able to carry them without a womb and she would therefore need medical assistance by way of IVF and a surrogate.

The investigation into the extent of Miss G’s injuries was lengthy.  In addition to long term physical injuries, Miss G suffered depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and required medication and therapy.  From her son being born he was cared for almost entirely by his grandparents and aunt.  Miss G missed the first 6 – 8 weeks of his life.  Physically she recovered to return to work 8 months after her son’s birth to her job in a care home but she was unable to cope, mentally and physically,  with the type of work and she found sedentary work in an office.

The solicitors acting on behalf of the NHS made a low offer in the first instance and it became necessary to start court proceedings as an agreement could not be otherwise reached.  The claim eventually settled only 3 months before a trial was set to take place in the High Court at Newcastle upon Tyne District Registry.  In addition to obtaining compensation for her physical and psychiatric injuries, we were able to recover compensation which would allow Miss G to pay for IVF and the costs and expenses associated with having a surrogate carry  at least 2 future children for her.  The claim settled for over £200,000.

Compensation cannot replace what Miss G lost on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life.  However, by pursuing a claim she has secured the ability to extend her family as she had always planned to.

If you have been affected by medical treatment in a similar way or know someone who has suffered like Miss G has please do not hesitate to get in touch.  We are dedicated to helping patients injured through negligence recover compensation and we are happy to discuss your experiences with you and help where we can.

Ashleigh Holt – March 2017

Your rights to access medical records

As part of a clinical negligence claim we often obtain copies of medical records during our initial investigations. Many people, however, come to us for advice on obtaining their medical records independently and this article will provide some guidance as to how this can be done.

There are two acts under which medical records can be obtained, for living patients applications should be made under the Data Protection Act 1998 and if the patient has passed away then certain people can apply for their records under the Access to Health Records Act 1990.

Data Protection Act 1998

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 patients have the right to see or obtain copies of their own medical records. You are not required to provide a reason why you want copies of your medical records. Requests for records should be addressed to the records manager at the relevant GP surgery or hospital and make it clear that the request is under the Data Protection Act 1998.

Once the request is received the healthcare provider will contact you outlining their fees for providing copies of the records. They may not charge you any fee at all, but if they do the amount they are entitled to charge differs depending on how the records are held (electronically, on paper or a combination of the two) and when they were last added to but cannot exceed £50 and is often much less than this. Once they receive payment the healthcare provider has 40 days to provide you with copies of your records. If you don’t receive them within this time you should chase them and remind them this is a breach of their duty under the Data Protection Regulations 2000.

Access to Health Records Act 1990

The Access to Health Records Act 1990 allows certain people, typically family or Personal Representatives of the deceased’s estate or any other person who may have a claim arising from the death, to access the records of patients who have passed away. If it is hospital records that are required then the application process is similar to an application under the Data Protection Act, a request should be made in writing to the records manager at the hospital where the treatment was received, making it clear that the application is under the Access to Health Records Act 1990. You may be asked to provide proof of your identity and relationship with the deceased to ensure you are entitled to access the requested records.

When a patient dies their GP records are typically transferred to be stored centrally by an NHS body called Primary Care Support England, the GP surgery will be able to advise you whether this has happened.  The Primary Care Support England website (http://pcse.england.nhs.uk) provides a detailed application form needed to obtain a deceased patient’s GP records.

To simply view the records under the Access to Health Records Act a fee of £10 can be charged. If copies of the records are required then they are entitled to charge a further fee for photocopying and postage. Unlike a request under the Data Protection Act these charges are not subject to any upper limit.

If after you have obtained your records you have any questions or you would like advice on any possible claim please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our solicitors would be happy to provide you with advice and guide you through your options.

Dan Richardson – March 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