NHS delay can cause injury

September 28, 2010
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I have had a number of new instructions involving claims for potential medical negligence this month. I have been asked to investigate the possibility of bringing claims for compensation in the following scenarios:-

1. A patient with a history of degenerative back pain who experienced a sudden onset of right sciatica and altered sensation along the L5/S1 disc. He went on to suffer drop foot on the right side. This is an inability or difficulty moving the ankle or toe upwards and making it difficult to walk. The patient will drag rather than lift their foot.

There was an administrative delay on the part of the Defendant Trust in arranging for an urgent MRI scan to determine the neurological source of this complaint. When the MRI scan was finally performed approximately 5 weeks later, the patient was notified that he had a prolapsed disc which was the suspected cause of the problem. He was referred for spinal surgery. The surgery was not a success and the patient’s condition is now suspected to be permanent.

I have been asked to investigate whether the initial delay in diagnosis and / or the subsequent performance of the spinal surgery was negligent so as to entitle the patient to seek compensation.

2. Another patient, a young girl who suffered a trauma injury to her little finger was admitted to the Accident & Emergency department of a north London hospital and given an X-ray to determine whether she had a fracture. She was told that there was no bony injury and discharged home. 3 weeks later, the patient’s mother received a call from the hospital to say that the original consultant radiologist had in fact missed a fracture that was clearly visible on the X-ray. Had this been spotted originally, the hospital staff would have been able to tape the finger straight so us to ensure a complete recovery. Unfortunately, because of the delay in diagnosis, her recovery has since been fraught with complications and she has required otherwise unnecessary corrective surgery involving metal wire. The prognosis is now far from certain.

3. Another patient, a young mother with two children, suffered steroid induced glaucoma in both eyes as a result of taking medication for a skin condition. The patient’s condition (and the reason for it) was misdiagnosed by two different ophthalmologists working in two different NHS Trusts as ‘dry eye syndrome’. In fact a simple eye pressure test or an optic scan nerve would have lead to an accurate diagnosis in time to make a radical difference to the outcome. Unfortunately, in this patient’s case, the delay in diagnosis meant that the window of opportunity in time within which something might have been done to save the patient’s vision had passed.

The concurrent theme in all three of these new enquiries is that of delays in time leading to otherwise potentially reversible consequences. Regrettably in these cash strapped times when the NHS is under so much pressure to do so much with so little, the incidence rate of such cases can only be expected to rise.

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