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Case Study

Substantial settlement for 71-year-old with spinal cord compression following delayed diagnosis at Southend Hospital

In February, Sarah* attended hospital complaining of back pain. Between February and April, she attended on seven separate occasions reporting persistent back pain each time. On her last visit, she was admitted to Southend Hospital.

While in hospital, she suffered a fall and was brought back to the ward. Neurological examinations were performed and wrongly reported to be normal. Sarah was encouraged to mobilise and have physiotherapy.

However, Sarah struggled to mobilise and declined physiotherapy due to the pain. The pain team were contacted as Sarah required increasing doses of medication to control her pain.

Over the next 11 days, Sarah continued to report pain. By May, she was complaining of pain, numbness and tingling in both legs. Red flag symptoms of foot drop, weakness and reduced sensation were recorded, and Sarah was sent for an urgent MRI. This was performed the same day, and reported to show evidence of spinal cord compression as a result of a delayed diagnosis of an unstable fracture, and failure to recognise and act on an abnormal neurological examination.

Sarah subsequently underwent emergency decompression surgery, and spent nearly two months in hospital before being discharged to a residential care home in June. She had previously been largely independent, living in her own ground floor flat.

Post discharge, she moved to several different care homes. She continues to suffer from persistent back pain, severe weakness in her left leg requiring the use of a caliper, numbness in both legs, bladder dysfunction, disturbed sleep and requires the use of a wheelchair to get around.

Arti investigated the case, obtaining several expert reports. A Letter of Claim was served and a Response received, making some limited admissions in respect of the failure to recognise and act on the neurological symptoms, and for negligently encouraging Sarah to mobilise. She should in fact have been placed on strict bed rest.

Particulars of Claim were served and Judgment was entered, with damages to be assessed. The case proceeded as a quantum case, with some causation aspects to be determined.

The defendant was served with evidence from nine different specialties, with a schedule detailing Sarah's past and future losses. At a Round Table Meeting in November, a substantial settlement was agreed.

At the end of the case, Sarah's daughter said:

"I cannot thank Arti and her secretary Jane enough. One of them was always reachable by phone and I would also like to thank Jonathan the barrister Arti appointed for their work in concluding this claim of negligence against Southend Hospital.

"This was a very complex case, but this did not deter Arti taking on mum's case. At all times they were so understanding and patient liaising with my vulnerable mum, including when they met mum in her care home.

"Arti and her team have made sure Mum has been appropriately compensated, securing enough compensation to support Mum for the remainder of her limited life span.

"A big thank you from both of us for bringing this case to an amicable end and preventing us having to go to court."

* name changed

Contact us

For further information about delayed diagnosis claims, please call Arti Shah on 0207 861 4139 or email arti.shah@fieldfisher.com.

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All enquiries are completely free of charge and we will investigate all funding options for you including no win, no fee. Find out more about our no win no fee solicitors.

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