This case study demonstrates the expertise of our Clinical Negligence team who have recently acted for the widow of a patient who passed away following delays by South East Coast Ambulance Service in getting him to A&E and Maidstone Hospital in administering intravenous antibiotics.
The deceased was suffering from acute myeloid leukaemia and had received treatment with chemotherapy. One morning, he woke early feeling very unwell. His daughter telephoned Maidstone Hospital and spoke to a triage nurse who told her to call 999.
A paramedic arrived by car within seven minutes of the call, at 05.55. The paramedic administered oxygen and then at 06.06 requested a manned ambulance to transfer the patient to hospital. The ambulance took 22 minutes to arrive and did not leave the home until 06.44. It did not travel by blue light and took 16 minutes to arrive at Maidstone Hospital.
Once in A&E, it took 2 hours and 45 minutes for doctors to administer intravenous antibiotics.
A diagnosis was made of acute neutropenic sepsis secondary to chest infection. The patient was admitted to intensive care. Sadly, he deteriorated and passed away the next day.
Cause of death was:
(a) septic shock
(b) acute myeloid leukaemia.
The deceased's family made a complaint to Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust under the NHS complaints procedure. It was discovered that the Trust's own guidelines said that where a patient requires antibiotics and that patient is immunocompromised (as the deceased was), the antibiotics should be administered 30 minutes of arrival at A&E.
The deceased's widow approached Thomson Snell & Passmore. She had the benefit of legal expenses insurance to fund the claim.
We advised that there did appear to be a breach of duty, on the part of Maidstone Hospital for the delay in administering intravenous antibiotics.
In addition, the time that it took the ambulance service to get the patient to hospital appeared to be outside the Department of Health's guidelines.
However, we advised that the issue of causation may be tricky. Even with earlier antibiotics, would the patient have survived?
We gathered the deceased medical records and instructed a consultant haematologist to advise on causation.
The expert reported that with appropriate treatment, the deceased would have survived for a further two months.
A claim was brought by the widow under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 for the statutory bereavement damages (£10,000 at the time of the negligence) together with funeral expenses as well as a small dependency claim for the loss of the deceased's pension over those two months.
The claim settled for £15,000, with the NHS Litigation Authority representing both defendant Trusts.
Read more about our experience in cases involving cancer, accident & emergency andfatal accidents.
Jennifer Waight specialises in clinical negligence cases. If you would like to ask Jennifer a question about a potential case involving delays in medical treatment or you have a general query about medical negligence contact Jennifer on 01892 701374 in confidence.
We have one of the largest and most experienced specialist medical negligence teams in Southern England including London. Our team of highly experienced lawyers has the depth and range of expertise essential in this sensitive and often complex area of law. Our clinical negligence team is very proud to be ranked Number 1 in both the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners UK.