Medical negligence complaint spurs changes to hospital procedure

04 June 2021

The serious injury team at Shoosmiths acted for Mr Smith*, who brought a medical negligence claim on behalf of his late wife. Mrs Smith sadly passed away when she was 69 years old after suffering from cancer of the ureter. Her family sought legal advice from Shoosmiths after they were told an important scan was lost, causing a delay in Mrs Smith’s diagnosis of cancer.
medical negligence complaint spurs changes hospital procedure

After having urinary symptoms and pain for some time, Mrs Smith underwent a CT scan of her urinary tract in October 2014 at University Hospital in Coventry. In the months which followed, her symptoms worsened, causing her severe and disabling pain and discomfort. After hearing nothing from the hospital for some time, her husband called her GP.

Human error and lost scan led to inoperable condition

He was informed by the GP that the scan had been lost and a further scan would need to be done. Another scan was not carried out until the end of April 2015, over six months later. Unfortunately, by the time of the repeat scan it was found that Mrs Smith had advanced cancer which was inoperable. She received this devastating news in May 2015, without her husband or any family members present. Although she was able to undergo chemotherapy, this was only effective for a short period of time. Very sadly, she passed away on 1 November 2016.

Mrs Smith’s family made a complaint to the hospital and thereafter instructed Shoosmiths to bring legal proceedings. The hospital’s response confirmed that whilst the scan in October 2014 was reviewed by a radiologist, the radiologist then failed to assign it to a consultant. As a result, due to human error, nobody looked at the scan and no further action was taken.

Earlier diagnosis would have meant life-extending treatment

After instructing Shoosmiths, it was established that the October 2014 scan identified abnormalities which would have prompted further investigations and she would have been diagnosed with cancer in November 2014. With an earlier diagnosis, the cancer would have been far less advanced and Mrs Smith would have undergone surgery to remove it. She would have avoided the long period of pain and suffering, during which she had no explanation for her symptoms, and would have been offered appropriate treatment for improve her severe symptoms. With earlier treatment her life would have been extended.

During the claim, University Hospital Coventry admitted that they treated Mrs Smith negligently and apologised to her family. Importantly, following the complaint investigation, the hospital have introduced a new automated computer system whereby scans are automatically sent to a consultant, to avoid similar human errors being repeated.

Natasha Read, medical negligence specialist who acted for Mrs Smith’s family comments:

“The family’s main concern was to ensure that this does not happen to any other patients. I am pleased that, despite the tragic circumstances of this case, the complaint and the legal proceedings brought to light potential areas of risk and a corresponding change in procedure which will enhance patient safety at University Hospital Coventry in the future.”

*client names have been changed for anonymity.



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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