Catalogue of appalling hospital errors cause permanent cauda equina syndrome - £510,000

Kelvin, 50

Kelvin has been left with severe and permanent leg pain, poor control of his bladder and bowel and limited sexual function due to a delay in diagnosing a serious spinal injury called cauda equina syndrome. JMW was able to secure £510,000 in compensation for Kelvin to help him to cope with his care and specialist equipment requirements and to allow access to private treatment. 

Sudden severe back pain

Kelvin worked in a very physically demanding role and this had, at times, caused him to suffer some minor back pain, which he had been able to manage at home with pain relief. 

However one morning when Kelvin was getting out of bed he experienced a very sudden onset of severe pain in his back. There were no other symptoms and Kelvin carried on as normal as best he could. 

Over the coming hours, Kelvin noticed a sensation of numbness and pins and needles in his right buttock, groin and genital area. The numbness spread to his right leg and foot and his back continued to be very painful.

Kelvin also noticed that when he went to pass urine in that he had little control over the flow, as well as a change in his bowel habits. 

Hospital attendance 

The following morning things were no better so Kelvin attended the A&E department of his local hospital. Kelvin was seen by a doctor quickly who examined him and then made a referral to the orthopaedic department. 

Kelvin was seen by an orthopaedic doctor in the early hours of the following morning who noted he had altered sensation when passing urine, had lost some sensation in his perianal area and was constipated, which was unusual for him. A call was made to the nearest specialist spinal hospital, with doctors there requesting that the local hospital carry out an MRI scan. 

Kelvin was informed that as it was a bank holiday the scan could not be done that day. Kelvin was therefore allowed to go home while the MRI scan was arranged with no follow-up advice given about returning if his condition worsened. 

The following morning at 9.30am, Kelvin called the hospital to chase up the MRI scan appointment to find nothing had been organised. After Kelvin was called back later that afternoon he eventually had the scan at around 4pm. He was told that the scan results would be marked as urgent for the orthopaedic surgeon. Kelvin returned home and after carrying out his own research into cauda equina syndrome became increasingly worried about the consequences of delayed treatment.

Surgery too late 

Kelvin heard nothing the following day, despite chasing the scan results. That night his back pain was so bad he could not sit down so he packed a bag and returned to hospital. Kelvin was left in a hospital side room until 3pm the following day before the orthopaedic doctor returned to examine him.

The doctor said he had the scan results and that Kelvin needed to be transferred to the specialist spinal unit for surgery, which was done that evening. 

The following afternoon, Kelvin finally had surgery to treat cauda equina syndrome, although he was given very little information about what was being done and why. However, as so much time had passed since the red flag signs first emerged it was now too late to prevent permanent damage to the nerves and Kelvin’s distressing symptoms.

Kelvin was unable to return to his previous job, which caused financial worries although he was able to return to work in a more sedentary job.  He also suffered quite severe psychological issues as a result of his traumatic ordeal and the loss of his sex life with his partner.

JMW’s investigation

After researching online, Kelvin’s fears that his treatment had gone badly wrong were confirmed and he found JMW’s team of cauda equina specialists. His case was taken on by partner Sally Leonards who has handled countless other similar cases. 

Working under a no win, no fee agreement, Sally commissioned reports from leading medical experts working within the field of orthopaedics/spinal surgery. The experts confirmed that there had been negligent errors by both the local and specialist spinal hospital in failing to ensure Kelvin had a timely diagnosis of such a serious condition by heeding the symptoms, arranging an urgent MRI scan and ensuring surgery was carried out in time to prevent permanent damage.  

Sally set out the case against the hospital trusts, and although they denied most of the failures in care, she was able to negotiate a compensation settlement on behalf of Kelvin. In total, £510,000 was secured to enable Kelvin to have access to the care and therapy he now needs.


Sally Leonards, a partner at JMW specialising in cauda equina syndrome cases, said:

There were missed opportunities to diagnose and treat Kelvin’s condition before irreversible damage was caused. Tragically these failures have had a devastating impact on Kelvin and his life will never be the same again. He had led a very fulfilling and active lifestyle, enjoyed running, cycling and playing in a band. He was an active and devoted father and who had a very loving relationship with his long-term partner. However following his realisation that the problems he had were going to be permanent, he became a shadow of his former self which has also had a huge impact on his family.  
It is vital that hospital trusts take a proactive approach to learning from these cases because very often the injury caused was completely avoidable. I am pleased that Kelvin has some financial security now but the fact is he would have made an almost complete recovery if he had received appropriate treatment.

Get in touch

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 up by leading lawyer, Eddie Jones.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Kelly Hindle on 0161 828 1868 or

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