Taking one million steps for cauda equina syndrome

2nd February 2021 Clinical Negligence

It was inspiring last week to hear about a new campaign from the Cauda Equina Champions Charity to promote the physical and mental health of those living with spinal injury cauda equina syndrome (CES) and raise much-needed funds and awareness.

The 1 Million Steps for CES campaign will see people with CES, their loved ones and supporters hopefully walk one million steps between them over coming weeks.

Taking into consideration that CES causes a range of physical disabilities, including leg weakness, pain and abnormal sensations, as well as issues with balance and bowel and bladder function, the campaign represents a significant challenge.

We’ll be doing our bit in the clinical negligence team at JMW, with several members of staff pledging their support, having seen first-hand the devastation CES can cause.

It’s an often misunderstood condition that can often be dismissed as ‘just a bad back’. The reality, however, is that this is an injury that can quickly destroy all that the patient holds dear. From work, to time with family and friends, to sports, holidays and future plans. All can be taken away in a matter of hours if it is not diagnosed and treated quickly.

The sheer number of people affected is alarming. Most prevalent among people in their 40s and 50s, it can strike at any age. The origin is frequently a spinal cord disc that has slipped out place and is compressing the cauda equina nerves at the base of the spine. However it can also be caused by a spinal cord tumour abscess or even negligently performed surgery. The first symptoms of cauda equina nerve compression are altered bowel, bladder or function, combined with abnormal sensations or power in the lower half of the body. These symptoms need urgent investigation with an MRI scan and emergency surgery before they deteriorate and become permanent. But all too often this does not happen and the patient is sent home.

The NHS has been slow to recognise how widespread the failures in care are for people with the first signs of CES are. The team at JMW has represented hundreds of patients and the hospital trusts concerned will often deny any failures in care before, after being backed into a corner, agreeing to provide the compensation the patient urgently needs.

The defensive culture when it comes to CES claims means that the legal process patients have to go through to obtain justice cannot make the significant change that needs to happen. The patients need have their voices heard at a national level and that is what the Cauda Equina Charity Champions is working to achieve.

It has already made great progress and with our help it can change things before many other patients have their lives devastated. If you would like to donate to the 1 Million Steps campaign and to help make CES care safer for all and support those affected you can do so by visiting the Just Giving page.



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Eddie Jones is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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