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Case Study

£100,000 settlement following damning report of systemic failures at St George's Hospital

Jamie Green successfully concluded a case on behalf of the family of Jane Ferguson* following her death arising from failings in the Cardiology department at St George's Hospital, south-west London. 

A damning report by NHS England described Mrs Ferguson's death as a result of a 'persistent toxic atmosphere' at the hospital and a 'dark force in the unit' contributed to by a dysfunctional team of surgeons who were split between 'two camps' exhibiting 'tribal-like activity'.

Mrs Ferguson had required insertion of a bio-prosthetic aortic valve. She had a history of diabetes but was otherwise well and enjoyed caring for her grandchildren and visiting family abroad.

She began to suffer problems with her artificial valve and underwent an echocardiogram which showed that her heart was in a critical condition. Despite this, only a standard outpatient appointment was arranged. Mrs Ferguson's GP was concerned and spoke to St George's Hospital to expedite the appointment. Despite this, an appointment was not scheduled until more than two months after the echocardiogram.

Mrs Ferguson's condition deteriorated and she was admitted to Kingston Hospital with severe chest pain.  She was discharged and told to wait for her appointment at St George's. Her condition worsened again and she was again admitted to Kingston Hospital a week later. She was found to have fluid on her lungs and left ventricular heart failure. She was transferred to St George's Hospital and was told that she would need urgent surgery. Despite this, the family received conflicting advice from members of the cardiology team at St George's. Instead, she was taken for further tests, following which she was told that she was not an urgent case, she could be treated via keyhole surgery and could be discharged while an operation was arranged.

Mrs Ferguson's condition deteriorated further and she suffered from increasing distress to her heart and lungs while in hospital. She required one-to-one care during the night to manage her condition, but urgent surgery was not offered. 

Her family were later told that, despite early suggestions to the contrary, she was not in fact suitable for keyhole surgery and that she would require open-heart surgery. Mrs Ferguson sadly passed away in hospital before this surgery was performed.

An external, independent review was ordered by NHS Improvement after the national body that monitors the performance of cardiac surgery units detected a higher number of deaths following cardiac surgery at St George's compared with other units across the country.

The review considered Mrs Ferguson's case and the delays in performing surgery, alongside the deaths of 201 other patients in the Cardiology unit at St George's Hospital between 2013 and 2018.  Staff spoken to during the review said they felt that poor performance was inevitable 'due to the pervading atmosphere'.

The review concluded that Mrs Ferguson's death was avoidable and that, with proper treatment, she would have survived. The Trust subsequently wrote to Mrs Ferguson's family acknowledging the findings and confirming that liability would not be contested in her claim.

Mrs Ferguson's family subsequently instructed Jamie Green to calculate the value of her claim. He obtained evidence to support various losses claimed, including a large claim for services dependency to reflect the care and support that Mrs Ferguson provided to her daughter and grandchildren. Following negotiations with the Trust, Jamie was able to secure a settlement of £100,000.

Following the conclusion of the claim, Mrs Ferguson's daughter said:

"I couldn't be more grateful for having been put in contact with Fieldfisher and having Jamie support me through this process. From the very beginning, Jamie was empathetic, thoughtful and patient with me, especially when at times I was finding it very difficult to process things and provide sensitive information. He took the time to truly understand our case and why it mattered to ensure that we were given as much justice as is possible in these circumstances."

*name changed

For further information about surgery negligence claims and clinical negligence claims, please call Jamie Green on 0330 460 6771 or email jamie.green@fieldfisher.com.

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