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Case Study

Negligent delay causes permanent injury in case of large disc prolapse

In January 2012, Mr Brown, then 68-years-old, began suffering from dizziness and problems with balance. Following a fall, he was admitted to A&E at Homerton Hospital, where doctors initially suspected he may have suffered a stroke.

On the morning of 27th January a plan was made to undertake a CT scan followed by an MRI if necessary. By lunchtime the following Monday, the scans had not yet been performed. Mr Brown's family questioned the delay, which was attributed to a 'skeleton staff' over the weekend. The CT was eventually performed just before 5pm. It revealed no explanation for Mr Brown's symptoms.

The following day, Mr Brown was unable to stand and was experiencing tingling and numbness in both hands. An MRI revealed a large disc prolapse in his neck. Over the coming days, his condition continued to deteriorate and a plan was made to transfer him to the neurosurgical team at the Royal London Hospital. Administrative errors meant that this transfer was delayed by several days, during which time his condition worsened rapidly.

Mr Brown was not in fact transferred until 8th February, 8 days later.  When he arrived at the Royal London, he was reviewed by the neurosurgical and physiotherapy teams. The plan for his treatment continued to be muddled and slow. The possibility of surgery was floated, as was the possibility of transfer back to Homerton. In fact, the clinicians at the Royal London Hospital took very little action at all, as they waited for a consultant to return from holiday. Eventually surgery was scheduled, but this had to be cancelled due to infection which had become apparent during the delay.

More than two weeks after his arrival, Mr Brown was finally reviewed by the returning consultant. By this time, the assistance of two people was required just to help him move around his bed.

Mr Brown finally underwent surgery on his neck on 6th March and three huge disc fragments were removed. Post-operatively, he suffered extensive complications. A haematoma caused swelling in his neck, making it unsafe for him to swallow.  This swelling was ignored by staff at the hospital and as a result of that delay, Mr Brown was fitted with a naso-gastric tube and then a PEG tube directly into his stomach. The PEG tube was required for four years. Mr Brown continues to have significant issues with mobility, motor control and swallowing. His condition is unlikely to improve significantly.

Jonathan Zimmern assisted Mr Brown in bringing a claim against both Homerton Hospital and the Royal London Hospital. It was argued that the negligent delays in Mr Brown's diagnosis and treatment significantly worsened his condition and prospects of recovery.  The Trusts denied all liability but, a couple of months before trial, Jonathan successfully negotiated a settlement £337,500.

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For further information about hospital negligence claims and clinical negligence claims, please call Jonathan Zimmern on 020 7861 4218 or email jonathan.zimmern@fieldfisher.com.

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