This is a sad case, in which the woman, who was almost 23 weeks pregnant at the time the negligence occurred, lost her baby. Mrs N was pregnant with her second child when she attended A & E at Bassetlaw Hospital with pain down her side, back and stomach. She was sent to the labour ward without being seen by an A & E doctor and was advised that she had likely pulled a muscle. She was sent home and told to return if things got worse.
Baby born at nearly 23 weeks on third visit to hospital
The pain got worse during the night and she returned to the maternity ward at Bassetlaw Hospital the following day. She was seen by a midwife and a senior house officer who advised that he believed she was suffering from a viral illness or ligament pain. She was sent home again.
Two days later, Mrs N returned once more to the hospital with worsening pain. She was admitted to the ward, escalated to a senior midwife and was commenced treatment for suspected sepsis, being given intravenous fluids and antibiotics. An ultrasound scan was undertaken, and she was advised that she had gallstones and that her baby was alive with foetal movements observed. She was then placed in the care of a consultant obstetrician. Less than 20 minutes later, Mrs N’s baby was born, but being just under 23 weeks’ gestation, her son sadly died shortly less than three hours later.
Delayed diagnosis of appendicitis led to perforated appendix and peritonitis
Mrs N’s pain continued, and she was seen by an obstetrics registrar the following morning. He encouraged her to eat and drink and requested blood tests. Psychiatric assistance was also considered. Two hours later he alerted the surgical team who advised an urgent CT scan of the abdomen, which demonstrated the presence of a perforated appendix and peritonitis. Arrangements were made for her to be urgently transferred to Doncaster Royal Infirmary, where she underwent an emergency laparotomy and appendicectomy.
Her recovery was prolonged, and 15 days later, chest drains were inserted to remove the build-up of fluid. Evidence of ongoing infection and inflammation, elevated temperature and anaemia were also present. She was eventually discharged from hospital just under one month after being admitted.
Left with scarring and psychological suffering
Mrs N has been left with a scar that distresses her and has severely knocked her confidence, and which may need expensive scar revision treatment, along with bowel issues. She has also suffered psychologically as a result of the death of her baby and not being able to say goodbye properly because of her extended hospitalisation. She was given antidepressants and has had counselling from a bereavement counsellor.
Hospital admits errors and delayed diagnosis of appendicitis
She decided to make a formal complaint to the Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who admitted that there may have been errors in her treatment and that it is possible that an earlier diagnosis of appendicitis could have been made and treated, which may ultimately have reduced the risk of surgery and the risk of extreme pre-term labour. Mrs N then contacted Graysons who took up her case and pursued the hospital for compensation.
Carol Simpson, a midwife before becoming a lawyer sought expert advice from a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, a consultant surgeon, a consultant plastic surgeon, and a consultant psychiatrist. Their evidence confirmed that there had been negligent treatment and that the client had suffered due to the late diagnosis of appendicitis. It was also confirmed that because of the larger incision that was required as a result of the delay, Mrs N has been left with:
- a 5% lifetime risk of developing an incisional hernia
- a 10% lifetime risk of developing acute adhesive small bowel obstruction, and
- a 1% lifetime risk of requiring emergency surgery for an obstruction, for which treatment on a private basis would probably cost in the region of £20,000
The hospital admitted that there was a breach of duty at Mrs N’s second visit to the hospital and that, had there not been a delay in diagnosing appendicitis, she would have avoided:
- a few days of significant and unnecessary pain
- perforation and widespread abdominal sepsis
- post-operative complications, including bilateral pleural effusions, requiring chest drains and a protracted and complicated recovery
- pre-term labour and the death of her child
Carol negotiates settlement and client very pleased with service
The NHS trust initially offered a settlement of £40,000, but due to Carol’s experience she advised that this should not be accepted. She obtained further evidence regarding the psychological suffering and loss of earnings, and was able to negotiate a settlement of £70,000, which Mrs N accepted.
Mrs N was very pleased with the service she had received from Carol, saying:
“Carol was fantastic at keeping in touch and replying quickly. Very sensitive and caring.”
If you have suffered due to negligent treatment by a medical professional, call our clinical negligence experts on our dedicated helpline now. We will arrange a free of charge appointment in which we can assess your case, and if we are able to take it on, we will offer you a no-win, no fee arrangement to pursue your case. You can also find out more about claiming compensation for medical negligence on our web pages.
Author: Carol Simpson, partner and head of medical negligence.