55-year-old Mrs G, who enjoyed a busy family life, had been living with myasthenia gravis, a neurological condition which often affects the respiratory muscles for many years. Her condition was well managed by neurologists at the Royal Free Hospital.
At 4am on 27 October 2010, Mr G called an ambulance when his wife was experiencing trouble breathing. When she arrived at Chase Farm Hospital A&E, because of the risk of respiratory arrest, it was decided she needed non-invasive ventilation, a procedure which requires continuous nursing care.
Because the Intensive Care Unit was full, the consultant transferred Mrs G to a respiratory ward in the mistaken belief it had a nursing ratio of one nurse to two patients. In reality, the ratio was one nurse to seven patients. Ward staff had previously had their request for additional nursing support turned down.
Early the next morning, a nurse found Mrs G not breathing. The monitor she was connected to was not showing readings and had failed to alert the nurses to her condition. Mrs G was put on life support but tragically passed away five days later.
Mr G instructed Jonathan Zimmern to bring legal proceedings against the Barnet and Chase Farm Hospital's Trust. A respiratory physician and a neurologist brought onto the case asserted that the Trust had been negligent in the acute care it provided at Chase Farm Hospital.
The Trust disputed these findings and the case was subsequently heard at a four day inquest in April 2013.
The Coroner found that at some point after 7am, Mrs G's respiratory function had deteriorated and her heart had stopped. Because her nurse had six other patients to look after, Mrs G's arrest went unnoticed for several minutes and resuscitation was delayed by around 15 minutes. As a consequence of the delay, she suffered brain injury from which she never recovered.
The Coroner held that Mrs G should have been cared for on a High Dependency Unit and failure to do so was a serious failure on the part of the Trust. The hospital's machinery failed to alert the nursing staff to her arrest and there were not enough staff to provide the level of care required. This amounted to a failure to provide basic medical care to Mrs G.
The Trust subsequently admitted liability and in November 2015, Jonathan managed to secure a six figure settlement.
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