Appalling GP and hospital errors cause permanent cauda equina syndrome - £2 million 

'Tracy', 42

Tracy was left permanently disabled, in constant pain and with bowel and bladder incontinence after failures by an out-of-hours GP and a hospital left her with permanent cauda equina syndrome (CES). After her case was taken on by the specialist medical negligence solicitors at JMW Tracy was awarded almost £2 million in compensation to enable her to cope with her disabilities. 

Sudden onset

Tracy’s CES symptoms started suddenly. She had a history of back pain but one evening this became more severe and was accompanied by other worrying symptoms including difficulty passing urine and loss of feeling in her perineal area; classic CES red flags. Tracy contacted the out-of-hours GP service and was told that a doctor would call her back. 

About 30 minutes later a doctor called Tracy who wrongly advised her to keep taking pain killers and see her regular GP in the morning. This is despite the fact that she needed urgent medical attention and should have been sent straight to hospital. 

Hospital errors

Tracy duly went to her GP the next morning who correctly suspected CES and referred her straight to hospital. At the hospital she underwent an MRI scan which revealed she had a prolapsed disc that was putting pressure on the cauda equina nerves at the base of her spine and was causing her symptoms.

Despite the delay in being referred due to the negligence of the out-of-hours GP Tracy’s condition was such that there was now a window of opportunity to operate and relieve the pressure so that the damage to her spine could be limited. Tracy was promptly sent to a hospital that specialises in spinal surgery and was on course to undergo successful treatment. 

However, the treatment provided by the hospital fell well below an acceptable standard. Firstly, the operation was done very poorly and failed to relieve the pressure on the nerves. Secondly, the day after the operation Tracy was not reviewed by a senior surgeon and her bladder function was not monitored.

Due to her loss of feeling she did not realise her bladder was extremely full and she was allowed to develop severe bladder over-distention.

Tracy continued to suffer signs of CES for the next two and hospital staff realised the operation had been unsuccessful. She underwent further surgery which successfully relieved the pressure but by this point irreparable damage had been caused to her cauda equina nerves.

Tracy’s life is now severely impaired. She has no bowel or bladder function or sexual sensation and has frequent episodes of incontinence. She also has severe right foot drop and uses a brace but has suffered several falls resulting in wrist fractures. Tracy’s pain in her back is severe and radiates to her saddle area and right leg. 

Successful claim

Despite overwhelming expert evidence gathered by JMW’s Melissa Gardner, which found there had been a catalogue of negligence and that this had caused Tracy to suffer permanent CES, both the out-of-hours GP and the hospital denied any wrong-doing. 

The case eventually settled for just under £2 million and although this could never fully compensate Tracy for her life being devastated it has enabled her to purchase the care, equipment and accommodation she requires to cope with her disabilities.  

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