Delay in resuscitation leads to death at St George's Hospital | Fieldfisher
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Case Study

Delay in resuscitation leads to death at St George's Hospital

Richard Earle recovered £130,000 from St George's Hospital in an accident and emergency negligence claim for Matthew's family. Matthew died following a delay in treatment at the hospital, which he had attended because he was having difficulty breathing.

On 16 November 2002 Matthew began to suffer from a sore throat and by 22:00 hours he had difficulty breathing. He was taken by ambulance to St George's Hospital where he was seen by a nurse in A&E.

The nurse failed to refer for appropriate treatment. Matthew rapidly deteriorated and collapsed. There was a delay in commencing resuscitation and sadly, Matthew was pronounced dead just after midnight at the age of 51.

Matthew had been categorised as non-urgent and directed to the minor injuries area. Significantly, the nurse failed to act on the fact that the ambulance crew noted Matthew’s airway as being partially obstructed.

During his admission, Matthew was unable to swallow analgesia. By the time he was seen by the specialist registrar, Matthew was so distressed that he quickly became unconscious and suffered a cardiac arrest. 

Resuscitation by bag, mask and CPR was commenced and an anaesthetist was summoned. The anaesthetist had not been informed of the arrest and therefore the urgency and there was a significant delay before he arrived. Attempts to resuscitate Matthew were unsuccessful.

In fact Matthew had been suffering from upper airway obstruction caused by epiglottitis and he died as a result of the unrelieved consequences of this condition.

Richard Earle pursued an accident and emergency negligence claim on behalf of Matthew's surviving family.

Following receipt of positive reports from an A&E consultant and a cardiologist, a letter of claim was sent in July 2005.

In the letter of response the trust admitted liability, leaving only the amount of compensation in issue.

An offer made by the defendant of £75,000 was rejected.

Matthew had a previous history of hypertension and although he probably would have worked until full retirement age he had a reduced life expectancy of around 10 years.

Proceedings were issued in the High Court on 7 November 2005.

At this time we made an offer to settle the claim in the sum of £130,000, which was accepted.

The case was initially privately funded superseded by Legal Aid subject to a contribution paid by Matthew's mother, which was returned to her in full upon recovery of costs from the defendants.

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