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  • Overview

    We have recovered £14,000 for the widower of a patient who died after an out of hours GP failed to appreciate that her significant medical history and immunosuppressant medication left her vulnerable when fighting an infection.

    Mrs H had Eisenmenger’s syndrome and underwent a heart and lung transplant in 1991.  She also had type 2 insulin dependent diabetes and hypertension. 

    She had known chronic renal disease and peripheral vascular disease.  She was on a variety of immunosuppressant medications. 

    On 17 October 2009 Mrs H felt unwell.  She had experienced diarrhoea and vomiting since about 8.00pm the previous evening.  At 9.40am her husband telephoned Milton Keynes Urgent Care Services to request a doctor attend the home.  He described Mrs H’s condition including her medication.  He also advised that she had been vomiting, had uncontrollable diarrhoea and a temperature of 38ºC. 

    The out of hours GP attended the home at 11.45am.  He administered an anti-sickness injection and gave a prescription for Imodium.  He took Mrs H’s blood pressure which, according to her husband, was extremely low, being 60/42 and 70/42.  However, the GP did not record any blood pressure reading on his notes. 

    That afternoon, Mrs H’s husband telephoned the out of hours service again and advised that his wife had deteriorated.  She continued to have diarrhoea, her breathing was laboured and she was dizzy on standing.  At 16.59 the triage nurse telephoned and took details of Mrs H’s medication and medical history.  A different out of hours GP visited the home at 18.05.  He was sufficiently concerned to complete an acute referral form and telephone an ambulance. 

    The ambulance took Mrs H to Milton Keynes General Hospital.  On arrival her blood pressure was unrecordable and she received initial resuscitation in the emergency department before being admitted to the coronary care unit.  Unfortunately, Mrs H suffered a cardiac arrest and was found to be in multi organ failure from dehydration and septic shock.

    Mrs H died on 4 November 2009. 

    We were instructed by Mr H to pursue a claim against the first out of hours GP.  We obtained expert evidence which supported the claim on the basis that Mrs H was ill enough to require urgent referral to hospital. The GP should have realised that her complicated medical history, and the fact that she was on a variety of medication including immunosuppressant drugs, seriously decreased her chances of fighting the infection.  The delay in referring Mrs H to hospital was of the utmost significance.  Had she been referred on the morning of 17 October 2008, her deteriorating condition could have been avoided.

    A detailed letter of claim was sent to the defendant and an early offer of settlement made.  Mr H received £14,000 in compensation. 

    Jennifer Waight specialises in fatal clinical negligence cases.  If you would like to ask Jennifer a question about a potential case involving clinical negligence, or have a general query about medical negligence, contact Jennifer on 01892 701374 in confidence. 

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