Scan and hospital errors cause permanent cauda equina syndrome - £925,000

Claire, 43

Claire lost her cleaning business, her marriage and was left with permanent pain, incontinence and disability after errors by a mobile scanning unit and hospital meant urgent surgery to treat cauda equina syndrome (CES) was delayed. Claire contacted the specialist cauda equina solicitors at JMW for help and she was awarded £925,000 in compensation to help her rebuild her life. She has since set up the Cauda Equina Syndrome Association with JMW’s help to raise awareness of the red flag signs of CES.

First signs

Claire had a long history of back pain and although she attended her GP on numerous occasions about this she generally put up with it the best she could. However when the pain worsened to the point that Claire was waking at night and her leg would frequently give way she was referred to a hospital and an MRI scan was arranged. The MRI scan was carried out in a mobile scanning unit operated by a private company but contracted by the NHS.

Two days later while Claire was waiting to hear what was wrong, she woke during the night in agony. She took paracetamol and rang NHS direct when she developed a strange heavy feeling in her bowels and was told any bowel or bladder symptoms should be treated as an emergency. Claire rang her GP surgery as soon as it opened and was able to get an appointment for 9.45am.

Scan and hospital errors

Claire’s GP carried out various tests and listened to her symptoms, which now included difficulty passing urine and an altered sensation and numbness in her saddle area. The GP correctly suspected CES and called the hospital to speak to a specialist. As Claire could walk the consultant rejected the GP’s request for her to be seen as an emergency.

The consultant said she could come to the urgent care clinic even though the GP thought she should be seen in A&E. Little did Claire know at this point that the MRI scan previously carried out had shown a very large prolapsed disc in her spine that was putting pressure on the cauda equina nerves at the base of her spine. These findings had not been acted on despite the fact that Claire required urgent surgery to prevent permanent damage from being caused. Claire attended the urgent care centre with a letter from the GP saying he suspected CES.

Claire was seen by a doctor who dismissed her altered bowel and bladder function and numbness/altered sensation in her saddle area and sent her home. Claire contacted her GP who told her to go A&E and he would contact them too. Claire attended later that afternoon and was taken to a specialist spinal injury hospital by blue lights that evening. She underwent surgery the next day but by this point it was too late to prevent irreversible nerve damage and Claire’s condition became permanent, devastating her life.

Successful claim

Claire contacted JMW for help and was put in touch with specialist cauda equina syndrome solicitor Eddie Jones. Eddie successfully argued that both the mobile scanning unit and hospital doctors had failed to appreciate the danger Claire was in and act urgently and secured £925,000 in compensation. This money has enabled Claire to move into accommodation suitable for her disabilities and given her financial security now she is no longer able to run her business.

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