More than £5.5m was paid out for clinical negligence claims made against the trust running Wigan’s hospitals last year, it has been revealed. Payments were made following the deaths of patients, unwanted pregnancies after sterilisation procedures, the misdiagnosis of conditions and problems with the treatment of patients.
A teenager died after complaining of a sore throat, an injection was given to the wrong patient and a woman died after issues following a hysterectomy. The highest payment of £2m was made after “repeated prolonged inhalation of Entonox” – pain relief also known as “gas and air” – led to a patient having a vitamin B12 deficiency, resulting in both physical and psychological injury. In another case, a child suffered brain damage, including visual and development impairment, following a delay in diagnosing infantile spasms before and after birth. The mother claimed psychiatric damage. As a result, a lump sum of £1m was paid, followed by £95,000 annually until 2023 and then £108,000 each year for life. The legal claims were revealed in a report prepared for Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust’s board. It shows a total of £5,544,373 was paid in 45 settled claims in 2016-17, with a further £900,976 paid in the claimants’ solicitors’ costs. That compared to £2,498,012.33 paid in the previous year, when the largest settlement was £900,000.
There were 63 new claims for clinical negligence in 2016-17, a drop from 75 in 2015-16 and 81 in 2014-15. All damages and solicitors’ costs were paid by the NHS Resolution Clinical Negligence Scheme For Trusts, into which the trust pays an annual premium. There was an increase in the number of requests for disclosure of medical records by solicitors, which could lead to future claims. There were 431 requests in 2016-17, compared to 409 in 2015-16 and 338 in 2014-15. As well as clinical negligence claims, the report details other legal claims made against the trust.
There were 14 employer liability claims, dropping from 16 in 2015-16 and 31 in 2014-15. This led to damages of £14,700 being paid in six cases, plus £25,287 for the claimants’ solicitors’ costs. The majority of the cases were for slips and falls, injuries caused by an object or equipment, lifting and sharps injuries. Three new public liability claims were made, with £1,200 paid for one claim and £5,551 for the claimant’s solicitor. Steps have been made to save money by dealing with more legal work “in house” rather than referring it to external solicitors. The trust spent £82,078.10 on external solicitors in 2016-17, dropping from £106,396.16 in 2015-16 and £239,595.15 in 2014-15.
Some of the claims made, which led to damages being paid: Following an operation to remove a cancerous tumour, the surgeon failed to remove all swab remnants from the wound. A wound infection followed and a further procedure under general anaesthetic with a prolonged period of recovery, wound healing and pain and suffering. Delay in diagnosing hypothyroidism. Claimant suffered extended pain and suffering and symptoms of lethargy, general ill health and deterioration in school attendance and weight gain. Vasectomy not performed satisfactorily as the left vas deferens had not been cut but instead a blood vessel had. A second procedure was required and claimant sustained some nerve damage. Claimant’s wife became pregnant. She also made a claim after suffering stress and anxiety following the unwanted pregnancy, which resulted in a termination. Filshie clip was dropped and left in situ during sterilisation procedure resulting in the patient becoming pregnant a few months later. Poor outcome following surgery for hysterectomy. Failure to investigate fall in haemoglobin levels on discharge. Patient was readmitted for pelvic haematoma and small bowel perforation, suffered incurable infection and died. Child sustained brain damage including visual and development impairment following delay in diagnosing infantile spasms prior to and subsequent to birth. Mother claimed physiatric damage. Death of an 18-year-old female presenting with “sore throat” and identified as a + glandular fever. Patient prescribed drug to treat tumour at the side of their head but it was discovered the tumour was benign. The patient died before being weaned from the drug. Patient treated with botulium toxin injection to right shoulder. It was subsequently noted that the injection had been given to the wrong patient. Delay in escalation of patient who developed sepsis after being treated for liver damage and jaundice. Patient died. Following repeated prolonged inhalation of Entonox patient sustained a vitamin B12 deficiency, which resulted in both physical and psychological injury. Patient had operation for repair of fracture cancelled on two occasions. Following operation patient was readmitted with deterioration and died. A spokesman for Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust said: “We consider each case on an individual basis and, on taking legal advice, make admissions and settlement payments where appropriate. “The NHS Resolution arrange payment of damages, claimants’ solicitors’ costs and defence solicitors’ costs relating to the clinical negligence claims. These costs are reflected in the trust’s annual premium payments. “We are unable to comment on individual cases but we endeavour to be as transparent in our reporting to the board as possible.”