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NHS mistakes lead to 75% rise in amputations negligence claims
The number of people suffering a limb amputation due to NHS negligence has risen by 75 per cent in the last 10 years.
An investigation by law firm JMW Solicitors, which specialises in negligence cases against the NHS, has revealed that a record 122 amputations cases were settled in 2018/19, compared to 70 in the 2009/10 period.
The data obtained by JMW from NHS Resolution, the organisation responsible for claims against the NHS, under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that three hospital trusts had more successful amputations cases brought against them than any other in the country.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals each paid compensation to 20 patients left permanently disabled due to medical failures.
The number of NHS trusts in the UK reporting fewer than five amputations compensation claims over the 10-year period was 120, amounting to 215 claims nationally. Some 28 trusts were found to have settled more than 10 claims relating to amputations over the decade.
Eddie Jones, partner and head of medical negligence at JMW Solicitors, said: “The data points to a worrying increase in the number of cases of amputations negligence in the country’s hospitals. Each amputation that is carried out incorrectly or where mistakes are made has a life-changing impact on the patient, resulting in often severe disability that can affect their future prospects.”
The data also revealed that the number of amputations negligence cases settled by hospital trusts in England and Wales increased by 12 per cent between 2017/18 and 2018/19, with 108 cases settled in the 2017/18 period.
Instances where an amputation may be caused by the negligence of a medical professional can include:
● A surgeon operating on the wrong body part
● Delayed treatment of an infection
● Failure to recognise that the blood supply has been cut off to a limb
● Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a delay in diagnosis of a DVT
● Poor management of peripheral neuropathy in diabetic patients
● Incorrect treatment of fractures causing tissue damage
● Negligently performed joint replacement surgery
Eddie added: “Aside from the physical and emotional trauma of undergoing an amputation, there are a number of ongoing issues and illnesses that patients can experience, including severe mobility problems, permanent loss of function, ongoing pain, loss of function in remaining joints and further tissue death in the affected limb.
“Amputation negligence can have long-term effects on everyday life, requiring those affected to change jobs, or left unable to work at all. On top of this, they may face significant financial costs when undergoing surgery, rehabilitation and when finding a suitable prosthetic limb.”
JMW client Wendy Hackett (49) had to undergo a below the knee amputation due to unbearable pain she was left in due to a hospital’s failure to diagnose and treat a severe skin infection (cellulitis).
As a result of the appalling care she received at Whiston General Hospital in Merseyside, Wendy had to give up her career as a social worker due to the permanent pain she was in and her mobility problems. She also needed to move into a larger property that provides the space she needs to move around in a wheelchair to enable her to cope with her disability.
Wendy, who lives in St Helen’s, commented: “This has changed every part of my life in ways I could never have thought possible. It’s devastating that it could have all been prevented by simple antibiotics. It affects me greatly every day, even now, and has greatly reduced my quality of life. Hospitals need to understand that mistakes such as this have lifelong consequences.”
Wendy’s ordeal started on 3 August 2012, when she attended the hospital A&E at around 6.30am with severe pain in her left sided groin and swelling and pain in her left knee and calf. Initially a deep vein thrombosis was suspected but this was ruled out. However, a blood test showed her white cell count was markedly raised, a sign of infection. Despite this, a doctor who saw her at around 4.30pm discharged her home with pain relief and advice that the pain she was in was muscular skeletal and would subside.
Wendy remained in severe pain and felt extremely unwell. In the early hours of the following morning her mother contacted the GP’s out of hour’s service. She was advised to attend the out of hour’s clinic where a GP diagnosed her with cellulitis and told her to go straight to A&E at Whiston Hospital as she required intravenous antibiotics.
After arriving at 7.24am a nurse practioner prescribed oral antibiotics and discharged her home. Wendy was told to give the antibiotics 48 hours to take effect.
Wendy continued to feel extremely unwell at home and was taken back to the hospital by ambulance, arriving at 2.51pm on 5 August. It was finally determined by 5.35pm on 5 August that a doctor decided she needed intravenous antibiotics, which were started at 6.50pm.
The cellulitis was eventually brought under control but Wendy spent several weeks in hospital and her leg tissue was permanently damaged. The excruciating pain she was left with meant she had to undergo a below the knee amputation of her leg in December 2016.
An investigation by Angharad Hughes, a partner specialising in clinical negligence at JMW Solicitors, found that it was negligent of the hospital to send Wendy home on her first visit to A&E on 3rd August without oral antibiotics. Angharad also found it was negligent of the nurse practioner who saw her on the 4th August not to ensure she was seen by a doctor and for Wendy to be discharged without intravenous antibiotics. Without these failures the cellulitis would have been brought under control much sooner and would have avoided the permanent pain Wendy was left with and her subsequent amputation.
NOTES TO EDITOR
JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients. JMW's clinical negligence team is headed by lawyer Eddie Jones. For further information, please visit: https://www.jmw.co.uk/services-for-you/clinical-negligence/amputations
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