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£40,000 recovered after King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust missed spinal fractures

£40,000 recovered after King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust missed spinal fractures

Longden Walker & Renney has successfully won £40,000 in damages for a client whose broken back was missed by doctors over an eight-month period.

The compensation was obtained in a case brought against King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, concerning treatment which took place at Princess Royal University Hospital, in April 2010.   

We brought the claim on behalf of our client, alleging that ‘the defendant’ had given substandard treatment by failing to identify and treat spinal fractures when he attended hospital complaining of back pain in early 2010.   

As a result, it was alleged that our client suffered additional pain while he awaited a diagnosis and missed out on the opportunity for earlier treatment, which had a significant impact on his long-term condition. Further, it was alleged that delayed surgery made the procedure more difficult and as a result he was left with severe ongoing symptoms in his back.   

During court proceedings, the defendant accepted that there had been no adequate investigations and that, as a result, fractures of the spine were not diagnosed until December 2010.  

Background

Our client’s story began when he attended the hospital’s A&E department following a workplace injury, in which he had fallen into a sitting position and suffered immediate back and abdominal pain.

The clinicians performed an x-ray of his spine, chest and abdomen, as well as a CT scan of his abdomen. The client recalled having met with a first year surgeon, when they discussed his abdominal pain. He was then discharged from hospital with painkillers.   

But his back pain continued and further investigations were eventually carried out following a referral from his GP. In December 2010, he underwent an MRI scan of his spine which identified the fractures.  

Given the circumstances, he was referred to a consultant in spinal surgery and, in early 2011, he underwent spinal kyphoplasty surgery, during which a catheter was inserted into the fractured bone and expanded with the intention of bringing out the spinal body into its normal height.   

Following surgery, our client was referred to the care of the Pain Clinic where he has continued to receive treatment, including pain relief injections.

His ongoing pain has left him unable to work, undertake housework, DIY, gardening or leisure activities and although the remedial surgery has brought him some relief, he estimates it has reduced his level of pain by no more than 40% or 50%.

Our solicitor, John Lowther, was instructed to investigate a potential claim for damages.  He obtained copies of the medical records and prepared a careful witness statement.   On the basis of that information, a letter was sent to the Defendant Trust in February 2012, requesting that it admits substandard care.   

Given that the trust had failed to identify a double spinal fracture, it had been hoped that admissions could be made swiftly and that both parties could cooperate to limit litigation costs and to expedite settlement.

Unfortunately, ‘the defendant’ declined to make any admissions or consider settlement of the claim.   

In the circumstances, we obtained expert medical evidence from a consultant radiologist and consultant orthopaedic surgeon – both of whom supported our client’s allegation that he had suffered as a result of substandard treatment.   

A formal letter of claim was sent to the Defendant Trust in January 2013, setting out the allegations and summarising the views of the medical experts. The defendant again declined to make any admissions or consider settlement.   

We cautioned the defendant that if no admissions were made, the client would have to obtain expert medical evidence from a consultant in Accident & Emergency medicine.  

In May 2014, we returned to the defendant and highlighted that the client had by that stage gained support from three medico-legal experts – all of whom believed that the defendant had provided substandard treatment. We pressed the Defendant to reconsider its position.  

As the defendant refused to alter its position, the claim was issued at court. Following the issue of court proceedings, the defendant made the admission that it had provided substandard treatment that caused our client to suffer harm.   

The defendant then instructed its solicitors to investigate the claim further and arranged to provide a defence.    

In its defence, the defendant explained that, whilst it admitted its substandard treatment had delayed diagnosis and treatment, it disputed some of allegations made with regard to the specifics of the substandard care provided and the extent of the harm caused by its failings.    

Following the first court appearance, the defendant proposed to settle with our client for the amount of £30,000 damages, plus legal fees and expenses, but they agreed to increase this to £40,000, following further negotiations.

Please contact John Lowther on 0191 5666 500 or email jlowther@longdens.co.uk if you would like to discuss a potential clinical negligence claim concerning substandard treatment in Accident & Emergency, or a situation where a clinician has failed to identify an injury when reviewing a scan.   

If you prefer, you can complete our short enquiry form and one of our Medical Negligence Solicitors will contact you.   

You can also find out information on who will be working on your claim on our FAQ page.

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