Failure by paramedics to detect a serious condition is fatal

24 November 2023

Shoosmiths were instructed on behalf of the Deceased’s Estate to claim compensation from the Ambulance Service for her death, arising from sepsis and a gastric perforation, as a result of the attending paramedics failure to take her to hospital.

Case background

 The Deceased felt unwell on 25 December 2017 with suspected heartburn after having Christmas dinner. She remained unwell and saw her GP on 27 December 2017 about abdominal pains and vomiting. She was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and prescribed antiemetic medication and rehydration sachets. During the morning of 28 December 2017 the Deceased’s condition deteriorated and she called NHS Direct, who arranged for an ambulance to be sent out. Unfortunately, the attending paramedics had less than 2 years of service between them. They failed to examine the Deceased properly and diagnosed her with constipation, for which they recommended intravenous paracetamol, fluids and a laxative. Later that afternoon, the Deceased’s condition deteriorated further. An ambulance was called but by the time the attending paramedics arrived the Deceased became unresponsive. She was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham but died later that evening, aged 63, from sepsis arising from a gastric perforation.

An internal investigation was performed by the Ambulance Service. It was found that there had been a failure by the attending paramedics during the morning of 28 December 2017 to take the Deceased to hospital for further treatment and management.

An Inquest into the Deceased’s death took place at Birmingham Coroner’s Court in June 2018. The evidence heard at the Inquest was that it was likely that the stomach perforation had occurred between the first and second paramedic attendances and if the Deceased had been taken to hospital during the morning of 28 December 2017, the perforation would not have occurred and she would have survived. Despite this, the Coroner concluded a verdict of natural causes.

Shoosmiths involvement

Shoosmiths were instructed on behalf of the Deceased’s Estate to claim compensation from the Ambulance Service for the losses arising from her death. The expert evidence we obtained confirmed that the Deceased should have been taken to hospital during the morning of 28 December 2017 and if this had occurred, a decision would have been made for surgery to be performed within 45 minutes. If this had occurred, the surgery would have been performed before the perforation occurred and she would likely have survived.

The Ambulance Service accepted that the Deceased had not received the appropriate standard of care during the morning of 28 December 2017 and that she would have survived if she had been admitted to hospital and underwent surgery before the gastric perforation occurred, but they did not accept that the surgery would have occurred before the perforation occurred. Despite continued attempts to try to reach a resolution, the Ambulance Service continued to maintain their position.

Court proceedings were issued and served, and the Ambulance Service served their Defence in which liability was denied, despite the accepted failings. We requested clarification of the defence submitted and following this, the Ambulance Service proposed mediation. We managed to successfully conclude the claim and secure a settlement on behalf of the Deceased’s Estate.

Shoosmiths’ Kashmir Uppal, specialist clinical negligence Partner fought to pursue the case, which was defended until the mediation. She comments:

This case was robustly defended, and a number of reports from experts in various disciplines were obtained to prove that had the Deceased been taken to hospital earlier that day, she would have survived. The evidence was meticulous and detailed, and the result corresponded with the findings at the Inquest in June 2018. If the Defendant had accepted liability at the outset, the claim would have settled earlier and at less cost to the Defendant.

The Deceased’s husband was very satisfied with the outcome and said:

I am extremely grateful for the hard work that Kashmir Uppal and her team did on my behalf. I felt that my late wife and I were treated with the utmost respect at all times and that the case was treated with sensitivity and total professionalism. I believe that without them a resolution would not have been achieved



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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