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In around April 2013, Mrs Wendy Courtnell attended her GP with symptoms of aches, pains, swelling and fatigue. She was referred onto a rheumatologist at Whipps Cross Hospital the following September.  

She was then referred for an ultrasound scan of her wrists and hands. Unfortunately, urinanalysis was not performed, a basic examination in a rheumatology setting in circumstances where Wendy had presented with symptoms of an autoimmune disease.

Wendy's symptoms continued. She attended the scan, which was reported as unremarkable. No further examination or tests were performed, but Wendy then developed bilateral eye symptoms, for which she was re-referred to the same rheumatologist in January 2014. Here she was reassured, but, again, urinanalysis was not performed.

A month later, Wendy attended an appointment at Queens Hospital following symptoms of sickness, stomach pains and black stools. Blood tests were taken and an endoscopy was arranged. Sadly, the blood test results were not followed up.

Her symptoms continued, to the extent that Wendy sought a private opinion. 

In July 2014, Wendy attended a Wellness check-up at her GP surgery, where further blood tests were performed. The following day, she was visited at home by her GP. She was informed that the results showed that her creatinine levels were very high, and that she needed to attend hospital as soon as possible.

Wendy attended A&E the same evening, where further blood tests were done. The doctor reviewed the paperwork from her previous attendance at Queens Hospital, which showed that the blood tests had identified that her creatinine levels were high at that time.

She subsequently saw a renal specialist who explained that her kidneys were damaged and diagnosed Wendy with vasculitis and stage 5 chronic kidney disease. She expressed concern that Wendy had been left for so long without the blood test results being picked up on. She was transferred to the Royal London Hospital for specialist treatment the same day, and subsequently received dialysis and a kidney transplant.

We alleged that there were failures on the part of both hospitals at separate times in Wendy's care:

1. Whipps Cross Hospital

September 2013 (and on subsequent occasions) - failure to perform urinanalysis. If this had been performed (as it should have been), the results would have mandated further assessment. Blood tests would have been taken and repeated, and on the balance of probabilities, would have identified abnormalities, prompting urgent referral to a renal clinic. Wendy would have been seen by a nephrologist, performed a kidney biopsy and been diagnosed with vasculitis by November 2013. She would have significantly avoided her renal failure deteriorating to the extent that it did, and would have required a kidney transplant at a later date.

2. Queens Hospital

Failure to review and/or follow up on the blood tests taken on 14 February 2014. On the balance of probabilities, if these had been reviewed, the abnormal results would have been identified and Wendy would have been referred for appropriate treatment.

Breach of duty was admitted on behalf of both Trusts, although causation was denied. In addition, it was accepted by the second Defendant that there had been a "missed opportunity" to prevent Wendy's .

Proceedings were issued in January 2017. Negotiations ensued and settlement was reached with both Trusts in June 2017. Sadly, Wendy passed away while the claim was ongoing.

At the end of the case, Wendy's solicitor, Arti Shah, said:

"Sadly, Wendy was let down on at least three separate occasions by two different Trusts. Basic routine examinations were not performed by the First Defendant, and this was further compounded by a failure to follow up on blood test results when they were performed by the Second Defendant due to an administrative error. Wendy unfortunately did not get to see the final outcome, but I am pleased that admissions were made before she passed away." 

Wendy's daughter, said:

"Thank you so much Arti for your endless support to my mother's case. You have shown great compassion, patience, understanding, and commitment.  Under such unfortunate circumstances, Mummy isn't here to see the outcome, but I know she would have been so pleased. This has meant so much to us, and as a family, we have appreciated all of your hard work, as well as your continued advice and guidance through this whole process."

Image credit: By MRSC at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons