What happened in the case?
In December 2016, Hazel was diagnosed as having a calciphylaxis wound on her leg. Calciphylaxis is a serious wound condition and is known to lead to sepsis. Hazel began treatment for her leg wound and by February 2017 the treatment was found to be working.
On 6 February 2017 Hazel fell at home and hit her head. She attended hospital who undertook investigations and reassured her.
On 8 February 2017 Hazel attend a pre-arranged appointment with her renal Consultant who advised she should be admitted to hospital for pain relief and further assessment. Hazel was admitted to a ward at Heartlands Hospital. Melvyn advised the ward staff that Hazel’s leg wound was due to calciphylaxis and required treatment with specialist dressings, rather than usual wound management. Unfortunately, Hazel did not receive the specialist dressings required.
Hazel began to show signs of severe infection and sepsis. These signs were not acted on and Hazel deteriorated. Hazel’s deterioration further worsened when she was given a fentanyl patch, a form of pain relief, that caused her to have severe restricted respiratory effort, leading to her turning blue. She was given an antidote to the fentanyl patch and Hazel fortunately recovered from this acute event.
However, Hazel continued to show signs of severe infection and sepsis. Despite Hazel’s deterioration she was not admitted to intensive care. She continued to be unwell and within hours tragically suffered a totally avoidable cardiac arrest due to sepsis, following the slow response of the ward staff and crash team in giving CPR and transfer to ICU. This led to Hazel suffering a hypoxic brain injury due to lack of oxygen. Hazel was removed from life support and sadly died.
Failures in care alleged
Allegations were made in relation to the treatment Hazel received between 7 and 11 February, particularly, a failure to suspect and investigate that Hazel had sepsis; a failure to monitor Hazel’s respiratory effort following application of the fentanyl patch; a failure to perform routine observations regularly; a failure to admit Hazel to intensive care and a failure to commence prompt CPR when Hazel suffered a cardiac arrest. It was alleged that, had any of these interventions taken place, Hazel would not have died.
Outcome for our client
The Defendant denied the claim throughout the case. Melvyn instructed Shoosmiths to make a number of offers to settle the claim and invited the Defendant to early exchange of expert evidence in an attempt to resolve the case. The Defendant maintained the denial. With a view to avoiding the costs involved with court proceedings the Claimant’s expert evidence was served on a unilateral basis. Although the Defendant did not admit liability, an offer was made for the full valuation of the claim and was accepted by Melvyn.
Upon conclusion of the case, Melvyn said “Thank you for all of your help during this lengthy process. I am still so annoyed with the NHS that it took them so long to come to the final agreement, putting me through almost four years of heartache.”
Clinical Negligence specialist solicitor, Amy Greaves said: “This was such a tragic case. Melvyn felt very strongly that Hazel had not received appropriate care and, despite going through the complaints process, did not feel that he had received an adequate explanation in relation to his concerns. Those concerns were borne out by the expert instructed in the case and, ultimately, with the settlement of the claim.
“The protracted time it took the Defendant to resolve the claim has only added to his distress. We hope that initiatives such as the ‘Harmed patient pathway’ that is being proposed by the charity Accidents against Medical Accidents (AvMA) and the ‘Harmed Patients Alliance’ will prevent the ‘secondary harm’ that is caused by the complaints and protracted litigation process.”
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 2023