UK Failure to Diagnose

Disabled Woman Compensated for Severe Brain Damage Sustained from Missed Diagnosis

Posted on: November 12th, 2016 by Medical Negligence

A patient, whose diagnosis of viral encephalitis was delayed by forty-eight hours, has been awarded a seven-figure settlement of compensation for the life-changing brain damage that resulted from the infection.

The woman in question, whose name has not been released to the press, attended her local hospital in June 2009. As she was  suffering from severe headaches, she admitted overnight on observational grounds. However, during her stay, medical staff were unable to diagnose her condition and she was discharged. In less than twenty-four hours she returned to the hospital, her condition severely deteriorated, and she was re-admitted as an emergency case.

This time around, doctors at the hospital diagnosed the cause of the pain as viral encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. But this diagnosis came too late to prevent any lasting damage. The patient sustained life-changing brain damage that has left her dependent on those around her for everything. The woman has a severely impaired memory and struggles to remember recent events.

The extent of her brain damage meant that the woman was unable to make claims for medical negligence by herself. As such, members of her family made the claim on her behalf against the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who manage the hospital where the woman was treated. The Trust admitted negligence and paid the woman a £1.1 million lump sum of compensation for their failure to diagnose. This was approved at the High Court of London.

Judge Sir Ian Dove, who oversaw proceedings at the court noted that  “Money can never fully correct what has happened to the claimant in this case, but unfortunately it is the best that the law can do. She will be now be comfortable and secure for the remainder of her life, will be able to stay in her own home and to have carers around her so that she can live the fullest life she can.”

Barrister Alexander Hutton QC, a representative for the Gloucester Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, commented that “We are extremely sorry for the failings that happened in relation to the care of this claimant. The consequences for her have been very grave. I would like to pay tribute to her family. They have been unstinting in their support of the claimant in very difficult circumstances. We do hope that this compensation helps and we do wish the claimant and her family all the best for the future.”


Claims for Compensation against Nurse Practitioners See Significant Increase

Posted on: March 10th, 2016 by Medical Negligence

Claims for compensation against nurse practitioners have seen a significant increase over the past decade according to the Medical Defence Union.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) is an organization that provides clinical indemnity and legal support for members of the medical profession. According to a recent report, just two claims for compensation against nurse practitioners were made against its members in 2005. Ten years later, and the MDU reports that number has risen to twenty-five.

The figures released by the MDU mirror those revealed by the Medical Protection Society in 2012. Both reports attribute the increase in claims for compensation against nurse practitioners to more emphasis being given to primary nursing care, the role of nurse practitioners being expanded and a greater awareness of patients´ rights.

An analysis of the figures released by the MDU and Medical Protection Society both show that the majority of claims for compensation against nurse practitioners are for missed diagnoses and the failure to properly manage chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and asthma.

While acknowledging that nurse practitioners are seeing patients who would historically have been seen by a GP, both organisations identified three specific areas that had contributed significantly to the rise in claims for compensation against nurse practitioners:

  • A failure to adequately assess a patient´s condition
  • A failure or a delay to refer a patient to a specialist or GP
  • A failure to adequately monitor the progress of a disease or illness

Dr Beverley Ward – the medico-legal advisor at the MDU – expanded on the reasons for there being an increase in claims for compensation against nurse practitioners. Dr Ward said:

“Many practices have devolved more responsibility to nurse practitioners in their team to cope with the increasing demand. However, in taking on roles such as assessing and diagnosing patients, prescribing medicines, and running minor injury clinics, nurse practitioners are also at an increased risk of patients holding them individually accountable if something goes wrong.”

NHS Disputes Value of Medical Negligence Claim for Burst Appendix

Posted on: March 7th, 2016 by Medical Negligence

The National Health Service (NHS) is disputing the value of a claim made by a woman who was left infertile by a burst appendix that was not removed in a timely fashion.

The trouble began in 2008, when Sarah Marquis began experiencing severe pains in her abdomen. She visited her GP, and was then admitted to Homerton Hospital in East London, where she was put on painkillers for three days. The doctors failed to notice that her appendix needed to be removed, and eventually the procedure was undertaken. Medical staff commented that the appendix was “gangrenous and perforated”, and lead to a serious abdominal infection that caused Ms Marquis to be infertile.

Three-and-a-half years after the operation, Ms Marquis had not returned to her £65,000 per annum job at DLA Piper, a leading London law firm. After seeking legal counsel, Ms Marquis made a claim against the Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for their failure to remove her appendix. The Trust conceded liability for her injuries, though they contested her claim for £1.5 million in compensation, instead arguing that the true value of the claim was closer to £300,000.

The case proceeded to London’s High Court, where Judge Robert Owen QC heard evidence that Ms Marquis’ life was drastically altered by the delayed procedure an infection, including losing the opportunity to live and work in the United Staes of America, where she could have expected to earn more. Additionally, she will never be able to conceive her own biological child with her partner.

Bradley Martin, barrister for the NHS Trust, read an apology to Ms Marquis at the hearing that acknowledged that Homerton Hospital had been responsible for her injuries. However, he proceeded to question whether Ms Marquis would have both had children and worked in the USA, arguing that her desire for one would have overridden the other and she would not have done both.

The hearing is due to continue later this month.

Widow Wins Costs in Claim for the Misdiagnosis of Cancer against the NHS

Posted on: April 8th, 2015 by Medical Negligence

A widow has avoided bankruptcy after pursuing a claim for the misdiagnosis of cancer against the NHS over a nine-year period – from Australia.

In November 2006, Dr David O´Reilly (55) died from metastatic colorectal cancer three years after being diagnosed with the disease. However, two years prior to the diagnosis being made, Dr O´Reilly – who was living in Chichester, Sussex, at the time – had undergone an endoscopy to detect the cause of the symptoms he was experiencing.

The consultant who conducted the endoscopy procedure failed to notice a lesion in David´s colon and, when David sought a second medical opinion, he was misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. Following David´s death, his widow – Sue – made a claim for the misdiagnosis of cancer against the NHS, claiming that David would have survived much longer had the correct diagnosis been made at an earlier stage.

Sue subsequently moved back to Australia, as she had a severely disabled son – Shane – who suffered from cerebral palsy, and Sue needed the support of her family to care for him. As tort laws in Australia are similar to those in the UK, Sue applied for the claim for the misdiagnosis of cancer against the NHS to be heard in Australia. The NHS objected but, in 2010, the New South Wales Supreme Court agreed to Sue´s request and hearings began.

Unfortunately, within a year of Sue´s claim for the misdiagnosis of cancer against the NHS getting underway, Shane died unexpectedly due to complications related to his cerebral palsy. The judge hearing the claim, Mr Justice Peter Garling, heard a motion from the NHS to transfer the case to the UK. He agreed that Sue no longer had the commitment of caring for her son to prevent her from travelling to a location where it would be more cost-effective to hear evidence from witnesses.

Judge Garling was appointed as a temporary examiner by the Royal Court of Justice in order that he could continue hearing evidence in the claim for the misdiagnosis of cancer against the NHS; and, earlier this year he found the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in breach of its duty of care, and awarded Sue £91,300 compensation for her husband´s premature death.

A parallel claim for emotional distress was dismissed on the basis that David would have lived just a few more years had his condition been correctly identified at the time of the original endoscopy. Of more concern to Sue was a motion brought by the NHS that it should only be liable for 25% of Sue´s legal costs. The NHS argued that Sue´s legal cost were disproportionately high in comparison to the award of compensation, and that they should not be liable for the full amount.

The costs of pursuing the claim for the misdiagnosis of cancer against the NHS had run into millions in the nine years since David´s death and, if the NHS´ motion was agreed, the amount of debt Sue had accrued would force her into bankruptcy. Fortunately for Sue, Judge Garling dismissed the NHS´ motion and awarded Sue the full amount of her legal costs.

Complaints against the NHS see Year-on-Year Increase

Posted on: November 29th, 2014 by Medical Negligence

According to data released by the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman, complaints against the NHS have risen by almost 8 percent in the past year.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is an independent body to whom complaints against the NHS in England are made when patients or families have had a substandard experience in an NHS hospital, and the hospital has failed to satisfactorily deal with their complaint.

The PHSO has just released the first in a series of reports in which the volume of complaints against the NHS is broken down into the type of complaint that is made, against which NHS Trust the complaint is made and how many are accepted for investigation.

The figures released in the first report show that in the past twelve months written complaints against the NHS have risen from 162,019 in 2012/13 to 174,872 in 2013/14 and that 44 percent of the complaints that were accepted for investigation were upheld.

The most frequent causes of complaints were clinical care and treatment, a lack of communication, diagnoses (including failure to diagnose, delay in diagnosis, and misdiagnosis) and staff attitude. 28 percent of all complaints against the NHS were attributable to hospital failing to adequately apologise after mistakes had been made – double the percentage of 2012/13.

The most complaints received by PHSO against an NHS Trust were against Barts Health NHS Trust in London, who finished on top of the complaints table with 2,451 grievances. 12 per cent of those investigated were upheld, and a spokesperson for the NHS Trust said:

“As the largest NHS Trust in England, with over two million patient contacts a year, we would expect to see a proportionally higher rate of complaints when compared to other NHS Trusts. We take all complaints seriously and work with our patients to ensure they are treated in a swift, sensitive and compassionate manner.”

The Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had the largest percentage of medical incidents investigated by the PHSO, while the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases NHS Foundation Trust in Bath seemed to have the most satisfied patients, with only 12 complaints made during 2013/2014.

Commenting on the figures, Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said: “These results should remind the NHS about the need for a more personalised approach to care that welcomes feedback, rather than becoming defensive. It is this culture change that is needed if services are to be improved for everyone.

“We know that poor communications, errors with diagnosis and poor care and treatment are the most common reasons why people complain to us about their hospital treatment. We hope NHS leaders use the data in this report to identify themes, and recurring problems in order to understand what they have done well and how they can improve their complaint handling.”

The full content of the report can be accessed on the Ombudsman´s website.