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The Surgeon with the God complex

In a high profile news story this week, a surgeon who allegedly carried out completely unnecessary operations has been convicted of intentionally wounding patients. Ian Paterson, 59, from Altrincham in Greater Manchester has been granted bail and is due to be sentenced late this month. During the 7-week hearing some of the surgeon’s victims gave statements about how Paterson misled them into thinking that they had serious medical issues and carried out operations for conditions that in many cases the patients were not even suffering from. One female victim who underwent surgery by Paterson six times in seven years said that he “…tried every trick in the book to avoid accountability for his disgusting crimes. Mr Paterson charmed and manipulated his patients into trusting him. I for one trusted him with my life.” The victim had been told by Paterson that she had breast cancer and went through extensive surgery to remove the cancer, then a full mastectomy to remove the breast. It was later found that she had not been suffering from breast cancer at all and that he had made up the results so as to continue performing dangerous and unnecessary surgery. As well as working privately at the Little Aston and Parkway Hospitals in the West Midlands, Paterson carried out hundreds of unnecessary operations on NHS patients, costing one NHS Trust around £17.8 million in damages and legal costs. Sometimes even good doctors make mistakes, sometimes crucial pieces of machinery can fail, and sometimes a simple error of judgement on the part of someone treating you can cause significant pain and damage. Fortunately it is very...

7 Year fight for medical negligence compensation finally over for widower

The widower of a woman who died from a blood clot just 16 days after the birth of her daughter has won a medical negligence case and undisclosed compensation from the Leicester Hospital where she died. Darren Taylor of Braunstone, near Leicester had to fight for seven years before the hospital admitted that mistakes had been made in his wife’s treatment. She died from a pulmonary embolism that was caused by a deep vein thrombosis (also known as DVT) in one of her legs that was due to pregnancy. When Mrs Taylor was found collapsed in the bathroom of their family home in March 2010, she was rushed to Leicester Royal Infirmary, but the doctor who saw her did not follow the hospital’s guideline on investigating suspected DVT on the basis that at that time, ultra-sound scans were not carried out at weekends. It is believed that if a scan had taken place, the DVT would have been noticed and appropriate action could have been taken to avoid the development of the pulmonary embolism, and hence save her life. In addition to the pain caused by the death of his wife, the situation was made even more insufferable by the NHS Trust’s insistence of its innocence of any negligence regarding the death. Speaking after the case, Mr Taylor said: “I am relieved that this is all over. It has been a long, hard seven years, but I am happy we have got the NHS to own up and the Trust says that lessons have been learnt.” If you or someone you care for has suffered as a result of...

77-Year-old woman dies after choking on doughnut in hospital

A 77-year-old lady from Leicester died after choking on a doughnut that she was given while staying in hospital. The lady had been admitted to the Evington Centre’s Mental Health ward at Leicester General Hospital, run by the Leicestershire Partnership Trust, in June last year. She had undergone a behaviour assessment – which included looking into her eating habits – and was placed on a “soft food” diet to avoid any potentially dangerous incidents. However, contrary to this she was given foods such as toast and pizza by staff who were supposedly caring for her. When she began to eat a doughnut on the 25th July while left on her own, she began to choke. By the time the emergency team arrived the lady had suffered a massive heart attack from which she suffered significant brain damage, and she died less than one week later. A spokesman for the Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust said: “We are sorry this tragic incident occurred while the lady was in our care and accept there is more we could have done to prevent this incident from occurring”. He added: “We carried out our own investigation into the incident, which we have shared with the deceased’s family and the coroner. We developed a detailed action plan following our investigation, which includes a number of different steps to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident in the future.” If you or someone you care for has suffered while under the care of a hospital or any medical facility, you could well be entitled to make a claim for compensation. While we all understand that it...

How to complain if you are unhappy about surgery or procedure

Everyone has the right to decent healthcare; the National Health Service’s own constitution provides assurance that anyone who is not content with the standard of care that they have received has the right to complain, the right to have that complaint investigated properly, the right to have the complaint acknowledged within three working days, and the right to hear the outcome of any complaint. Who do you complain to? In most cases the easiest way to start the complaint procedure is at an informal level with a discussion with doctor, or their surgery or Hospital. All GP surgeries and hospitals have a complaints procedure that will be made available to you. However if you feel that the care you received whilst under the responsibility of a surgeon, or any other medical professional with whom you do not have an ongoing relationship, your best course of action is to complain directly to the GMC; the General Medical Council. What can you complain about? Here are some examples of the types of cases where the GMC may need to act: Failure to examine a patient properly or to respond reasonably to a patient’s needs Serious or repeated mistakes in carrying out medical procedures or in diagnosis, such as prescribing drugs in a dangerous way Serious concerns about knowledge of the English language Serious breaches of a patient’s confidentiality Fraud or dishonesty Any serious criminal offence If you think a doctor has committed a criminal offence, you should contact the police as well as the GMC. If you are not happy with the way the procedure was carried out, or if you...

£2.25 Million settlement for newborn brain damage

When Baby Thomas was born 10 weeks early, there was naturally concern about his well being, but in accordance with responsible practice he was put into an incubator and transferred to the specialist baby care unit of Greenwich Hospital. Tragically, he later developed severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, sustained as a result of periventricular leukomalacia – also referred to as PVL – which is essentially the death of vital brain tissue. When the situation was investigated it was found that in accordance with procedure, Thomas’s blood gases were analysed around midnight on the day of his birth. The results showed that Thomas was at risk of developing hypocarbia, however instead of accepting those results, the registrar decided that there was a mechanical failure within the ventilator, and so did not change the settings on the machine. The result of this was that Thomas was exposed to excessive amounts of oxygen and not enough carbon dioxide for a period of around 9 hours. Thomas was left with severe brain damage and is unlikely to be able to lead a normal life. While the hospital initially dismissed claims that it was guilty of failings, they ultimately settled four days before the case was due to go to court. They paid £2.25 million in addition to an indemnity against any private education costs limited to £120,000. If you or someone you care for has been injured while in the care of a hospital, care home or any other medical facility, you could well be entitled to make a claim for compensation. Our solicitors have many years of experience in handling all types...

£75,000 Payout for delayed diagnosis

When a 35 year-old woman attended the Accident and Emergency department at Kings College Hospital suffering from acute abdominal pain, she was unconvinced when she was sent home with a diagnosis of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). The severe pain continued and she sought the attention of her GP, who she visited on the following day. The GP immediately suspected that she was suffering from appendicitis and sent her straight back to the A&E department. While she was admitted straight away, it was to be around 30 hours later before she was attended to. During this time her appendix had perforated leading to sepsis and the development of gangrene. Due to the delay in treating her, the woman’s bowel was damaged and had to be rebuilt alongside the use of an ileostomy (connecting the small intestine to an external pouch for secreted waste). She then had to undergo further surgery to remove the device. This left her with severe abdominal scarring. In addition to this, a psychiatric report confirmed that the events had caused the victim to suffer from an adjustment disorder from which, fortunately, she made a good recovery. The victim pursued the NHSLA on the basis of delayed diagnosis and after putting up an initial argument, they soon made a Part 36 offer of £75,000 without admitting to any liability. (Part 36 is a provision set in the Civil Procedure Rules designed to encourage parties to settle disputes without going to trial). What if you have suffered from medical negligence? If you or someone you care for has suffered due to any kind of medical negligence, we’re here...

Products to help alleviate pressure sores

Pressure sores (also referred to as pressure ulcers or bedsores) are most likely to occur in patients who have a reduced capacity for movement such as the terminally ill, the elderly, and those who have to spend long periods of time without movement. While the implementation of suitable procedures for patients to be moved and turned is essential in the fight against pressure sores, there is now a range of equipment that can assist and reduce the number of incidents occurring. Pressure Relief Cushions For people who are not bed-bound, sitting for long periods of time can also be a cause of pressure sores. Sitting on a specially designed cushion can aid the distribution of weight so that sores are less likely to form. Heel and Elbow protectors For wheel-chair users, and anyone who has trouble moving their feet or hands, heel and elbow protectors provide comfort while the limbs are at rest, so that the pressure of their weight against a footrest, or the floor, or the arm-rest or tables can be minimised. Foot Elevators Keeping the feet elevated can aid blood-flow around the legs and feet and hence reduce the risk of pressure sores developing. Pressure-relieving mattresses Alongside many types of supports and cushions, pressure-relieving mattresses are one of the most successful ways to minimise the risk of bedsores. There are two different kinds: the first uses a conforming support – such as memory foam – surface to distribute the body weight over a larger area, hence relieving the pressure on particular areas. The second type use an alternating support surface where inflatable cells alternatively inflate and...

£675,000 pay-out for brain injury misdiagnosis

A man who was repeatedly sent home by doctors while suffering from a brain injury has been awarded a massive £675,000 in compensation. Alex Rea from Shefford was sent home on eight separate occasions after visiting his doctor’s surgery complaining of headaches and sickness. In addition he was discharged twice from the Accident and Emergency department of Lister Hospital in Stevenage with doctors claiming that his symptoms were nothing more than concussion and a possible ear infection. It was only when he visited an out-of-hours surgery that the injury was picked up and he was immediately sent to Bedford Hospital for a CT scan. There they discovered that he was suffering from bleeding on the brain and on the following day he attended Addenbrookes Hospital where a hole was drilled into his skull and a blood-clot was removed. Mr Rea is now registered as partially sighted and has struggled to find employment since the injury, leading to periods of homelessness. He made a claim for compensation from the GPs involved along with the East and North Herts NHS Trust and won. Negligence was admitted on the part of the GP practice, as well as Lister Hospital. Have you suffered from misdiagnosis? As human beings we are prone to make occasional mistakes; none of us are perfect and sometimes even doctors can miss an opportunity to make a clear diagnosis. However this case highlights what can go wrong when doctors and medical professionals simply fail to notice what is apparent in front of them. If you or someone you care for has been put at risk by a failure to...

Hospital Trust fined £500,000 after 4 patient deaths

Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has been fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of over £35,000 after the deaths of 4 patients were found to be a result of careless and unnecessary failings. The Health and Safety Executive investigated the deaths of 4 patients at the Cannock and Stafford Hospitals that the Trust managed. Three of the patients’ deaths were attributed to falls from which they did not recover, while the fourth patient died from anaphylactic shock after having been administered with penicillin, even though she had previously made it clear to the hospital on several occasions that she was allergic to the substance. When the HSE investigated the incidents they found that they were mainly due to systematic failure within management systems. Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 in relation to all four of the deaths. Speaking after the hearing HSE Principal Inspector Wayne Owen said: “The deaths of Jean, Ivy, Joy and Patrick were preventable. Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust failed them and their loved ones. The Trust failed to follow a number of its own policies in relation to handing over information, completing records, carrying out falls risk assessments and the monitoring of care plans. These systems were not robust enough to ensure they were followed consistently and correctly. It is in the public interest that any hospital Trust is held accountable for serious breaches of the law resulting in death or life-changing harm. We expect lessons to be learned across the NHS to prevent tragedies like the losses of these...

Care home provider and support worker fined after severe scalding incident

A national care home provider along with one of its employees have been prosecuted after a young woman who resided in one of their homes was left with full thickness burns to 40% of her body after she was immersed into a scalding bath. Nicola Jones, a resident of the care home in Gideon Street, Bathgate, had to have all of her toes amputated and was left with no flesh on her ankles after the incident. She now has to use a wheelchair and faces further significant corrective surgery. Livingston Sheriff Court heard how a care-worker with 11 years experience had failed to check the temperature of the water before Nicola got into the bath. While the very high temperature of the water was due to a failure of the water heater’s thermostat, the responsibility to manually check the temperature fell to Sharon Dunlop. Colleagues who came to assist claimed that they could feel the heat coming from the bathroom and thus suggested that it was clear to Mrs Dunlop that the water temperature was dangerously high. The court heard how employees were supposed to check the water temperature and fill out a record, but these instructions were not confirmed by Real Life Options, the care home provider. When they investigated the incident, the Health and Safety Executive found that there was no suitable risk assessment in place to manage the risks of exposure to scalding water. In addition the thermometers provided in the home were inadequate. Speaking after the hearing, HSE Investigator Hazel Dobb said: “The injuries sustained by Nicola Jones were easily preventable by the simple act...

Care home owner fined after death of resident

A healthcare firm and its managing director have between them been fined over £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £136,000 after the death of one of the residents in its care. Luton Crown Court heard how May Ward, a 100 year-old resident died as a result of injuries sustained when she fell from a hoist while being moved from her bed to her chair at the Meppershall Care Home. When the Health and Safety Executive looked in to the case they found that while Mrs Ward was being moved between a bed and a chair, she had slipped from the hoist being used, and fallen to the floor. The HSE established that the two carers assisting Mrs Ward had been employed by the company (GA Projects Ltd) for less than one year. The sling used to transport the patient was particularly complicated to fit properly, and the two carers had been given no training in how to use it safely. In addition, the sling was not the type recommended by Central Bedfordshire Council as being suitable for Mrs Ward’s medical conditions. The Court heard that this was not the first time that serious safety breaches had been observed at the Meppershall home. Another resident had fallen a few years previously whilst being moved from a wheel chair to an arm chair. In addition, the HSE had served five improvement notices to the home relating to deficiencies in resident handling, risk assessment and a lack of competent health and safety advice. Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Emma Page said: “Mrs Ward’s death was a wholly preventable tragedy caused...

NHS Trust fined £200,000 for patient’s death fall

The Royal United Hospital (Bath) NHS Foundation Trust has been fined £200,000 after a patient fell to his death from the window in his room. Bristol Crown Court heard how an in-patient on the hospital’s Haygarth Ward had become confused during his stay at the facility in November 2012. The Trust had authorised a ‘Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard’ allowing them to forcibly return the patient to his room for treatment in his best interest. On the day in question he had been returned to his room by hospital security staff, but was later found dead in the courtyard underneath the window to his room. When the Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident, they found that the only window in the room was fitted with only one restrictor. The window was large enough to flex and when the gap was measured after the incident, it was found to be larger than the 100mm recommended standard. Other windows around the ward were also not adequately restricted. The Department of Health had previously issued a safety alert regarding window-opening restrictions, but no action had been taken. Subsequently the Trust was issued with an HSE Improvement Notice to ensure that all window restrictors were suitable and prevented the windows being opened more than 100mm. Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Stephan Axt-Simmonds said: “Hospitals must take into consideration the confused mind-set of some vulnerable patients when carrying out risk assessments. On this occasion the Trust had already received clear guidance that a single restrictor was not suitable, but ignored the advice.” If you or someone you love has suffered while in the...

Hospital Negligence led to dementia patient’s death

An NHS Foundation Trust has been fined £366,000 after a patient was found dead on one of its specialist dementia wards. Mrs Joan Darnell, a 78 year-old lady from Norfolk who suffered from dementia had been admitted to the Julian Hospital at the end of September 2014, but was found dead, lying face down in a bath full of water on October 16th. When the Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident they found that the Trust did not have suitable policies or procedures for managing the safety of patients. They hadn’t completed an appropriate risk assessment for caring for Mrs Darnell, and had failed to take suitable steps to prevent unsupervised access to the bathrooms on the ward. In addition to this, the Trust had not put systems in place to safely monitor patients while in their care. The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £366,000 alongside costs of nearly £13,000. Speaking after the hearing, HSE Investigator Anthony Brookes said: “This was a tragic and preventable death. Had the trust put in place the correct procedures for the staff to manage the risks to vulnerable patients Mrs Darnell may still be alive. It is vital that patients’ needs are taken into consideration and Hospital Trusts carry out appropriate risk assessments. They need to make sure the correct work systems are put in place to ensure they are managed, but also appropriately monitored.” If you or someone you love has been injured, or even killed while under the care or supervision of...

Council fined £25,000 after vulnerable man choked to death

Shropshire Council has been fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of nearly £40,000 after a vulnerable man choked to death while in the care of one of the Council’s day centres. Shrewsbury Crown Court heard how Michael Breeze, aged 53, who suffered from learning difficulties, had been taken to the council-run Hartley’s Day Centre in Shrewsbury. He had been provided with a packed lunch by the carers from the residential care home where he normally resided. When he began to eat his lunch at around midday he began to choke and subsequently collapsed. Staff attempted to help him and performed CPR while paramedics were on their way. When the paramedics did arrive shortly afterwards, they attempted to revive him and tried to put a tube into his throat, but this was made more difficult due to the food stuck in his throat. He was rushed to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital but sadly he did not recover. The court heard that the deceased had a history of choking incidents both at his residential home and at the day-care centre, and the Health and Safety Executive argued that sufficient safeguards were not put in place at the centre, despite these warnings. Shropshire Council was charged with, and admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Caring for elderly and vulnerable people can be challenging, but when we put our loved ones into the care of professionals, we can expect that they will be looked after properly. In this case it was clear that the gentleman had had issues with choking in the past, and this...

NHS Trust fined £1.1 million, plus £240,000 per year for medical negligence

The Gloucester Hospitals NHS Trust has been fined £1.1 million along with an annual, inflation-linked payment of £240,000 after a woman patient was left with devastating brain injuries as a result of medical negligence. The High Court in London heard how the woman – who has not been named – was admitted to hospital suffering from severe headaches. She was kept in overnight but doctors failed to notice that she was suffering from Viral Encephalitis; a very serious brain infection, and she was sent home. The following morning she was re-admitted as an emergency, but even then doctors failed to prescribe her the correct drugs and it was a further 48 hours before the appropriate treatment was administered. As a result of the brain damage she suffered during that critical initial period, she now suffers from acute amnesia and according to her barrister, now effectively lives in a world of her own. The Gloucester Hospitals NHS Trust admitted liability for the woman’s injuries and has issued a public apology. The Judge for the case; Sir Ian Dove, said: “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. She 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.”   A statement from the hospitals trust said: “We would like to offer our sincere apologies to the patient and her family and recognise the profound...

Care Home fined £80,000 for choking death

A Hampshire care home has been fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of nearly £20,000 after an elderly resident choked to death while in their care. Winchester Crown Court was told how Margaret Humphreys had been admitted to Marlborough House in Fleet for respite care in August 2014. Her family had provided clear information; both verbally and in the form of a laminated card, clearly explaining that her food must be cut up into small pieces so that she would not be in danger of choking. When the Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident. It found that Mrs Humphreys had been served meatballs that were not cut up, despite the clear warnings from her family. Tragically, she choked on these and died. Andrew Johnson, the HSE inspector for the case said: “This was a completely avoidable tragedy. The home was informed in the clearest terms that if Mrs Humphreys was presented with food that was uncut, she would choke; this crucial information was ignored. Had Marlborough House properly assessed Mrs Humphreys, the risk of her choking would have been identified and measures put in place to control this risk. This case sends out a clear message to the care home sector, illustrating the importance of listening to residents’ family’s instructions and to also properly assess and provide the same standard of care to respite residents as they would to permanent residents. This tragic case must act as a reminder of the importance of properly assessing new residents and that vital information must be properly communicated to care staff.” The company that operated the care home; Craysell Limited, pleaded guilty...

Healthcare company fined £100,000 for death of resident

A residential care company based in Middlesex has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000 after an elderly resident of one of their Surrey homes died from scalding injuries. Guildford Crown Court heard how the 89-year-old was receiving personal care and assistance in showering from two employees of European Healthcare Group Plc at Old Wall Cottage Nursing Home. She received significant scalding injuries, and subsequently died of her injuries in hospital. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into the incident found that the bathroom taps in were not adjusted to limit the temperature of the water to a safe level for bathing and showering. The investigation also found that while the company had policies and procedures in place, they were deficient and the company failed to effectively communicate information and instruction to its staff so that the control measures could be implemented effectively. HSE inspector Michelle Canning said after the hearing: “This tragic and preventable incident highlights the responsibility that all care providers have to protect the safety of people in their care. People who live in residential care and nursing homes are amongst some of the most vulnerable in our society and rely on others to provide a safe environment for them to live in. All healthcare premises have a legal duty to control the risks of scalding injuries from bathing or showering and there is guidance that is well established and simple to implement.” It is a sad fact that some of the most vulnerable people in our communities can be injured or even killed as a result of issues, oversights and...

Dental Negligence

There are very few of us who relish a trip to the dentist, but most of us accept it as a part of life. Sadly, for some it is not just the fear of the drill that worries us; what if the dentist makes a mistake, misses a diagnosis, or their equipment fails leaving you in a worse predicament than when you arrived? Dentists have to undergo an enormous amount of training to become qualified, but they are still human beings and they can make mistakes. There are three main types of dental negligence: Delayed diagnosis Sometimes your dentist might take too long to diagnose a problem with your oral health. This has the potential to lead to further complications which could have been avoided had they been suitably thorough in their investigations. Misdiagnosis Misdiagnosis, or false diagnosis is when a dentist misjudges a situation and can lead to worsening symptoms or even unnecessary treatment such as removal of a healthy tooth, or administering the wrong drugs. Substandard dental work Issues such as inadequate fillings, incorrect fitting of dental implants and poor standards of hygiene are all indicative of substandard dental work. There is a wide range of issues that can occur as a result of substandard work; each would be looked at on a case-by-case basis. What can be done? Whether your dentist works for the NHS or a private company, they have standards that must be reached in terms of the quality of the care they provide. If they fail to provide suitable quality of service you can claim for compensation for: General damages – any pain...

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