Are hospitals the least safe spots in the UK?

Weekly news recap: 7 days ending 26 Nov 2012

Whether you’re a patient or an employee, hospitals seem to be one of the least safe places to be in the country according to this week’s latest news stories.

First comes the story of how a seventy two year old pensioner won his legal battle for personal injury compensation for the loss of nearly all his vision in one of his eyes in the wake of a raft of hospital errors. The injured man, Malcolm Spencer, had been suffering from distorted vision prior to the incident, and while he was referred to the Fairfield General Hospital, located in Bury, medical staff there neglected to discern that Mr Spencer had been suffering from age-related macular degeneration,  which was responsible for the distortion.

Hospital staff sent Mr Spencer for laser eye treatment, which invariably made his vision even worse than it was. This prompted the injured man to make a medical negligence claim against the NHS Trust responsible for managing the Fairfield, and with the hospital admitting they had made mistakes that cost Mr Spencer nearly all his remaining vision in that one eye, agreement has recently been reached to compensate the man for his damages.

Meanwhile, a nursing auxiliary at the Belford Hospital was also awarded compensation after a personal injury at work to the tune of £50,000, thanks to a wrenched back and shoulder. Linda Mitchell, fifty nine years old, had been working at the Belford’s Belhaven Ward when she was attempting to arrange heavy lined curtains around the bed of a patient, leaning over a TV table.

However, the auxiliary ended up wrenching her shoulder and back after the curtains became jammed. Ms Mitchell was injured so severely that she has not been able to resume her duties since 2008, which is when the incident originally occurred.

Ms Mitchell finally received compensation payment recently after a long, protracted battle with the NHS, which first saw the claimant only being offered £25,000 for her injuries. However, the auxiliary stuck to her guns, resulting in her earning double the initial amount after a civil action; while Ms Mitchell expressed happiness that a settlement had been reached, she was quick to add that the the entire incident could have been completely avoided if hospital bosses had heeded initial complaints about the jammed curtain.

Losing injury claims can be an expensive proposition

Industry news roundup: week ended 19 Nov 2012:

Defending a losing injury claim can be an expensive proposition, as it was revealed this week that costs to insurers and local authorities are very high indeed.

First up is the story of a mother from Wigan racking up a personal injury compensation payment of £90,000 after she was hit by a car. Lisa Eagleton, a thirty eight year old mum from Worsley Mesnes, had been on her way to visit a friend when she was hit by a vehicle as she attempted to cross Darlington Street.

Ms Eagleton sutained a broken nose, a broken leg, and quite serious facial bruising, and was treated at the Wigan Infirmary for her injuries. However, the damage done to her leg was much worse than first anticipated, and while surgical staff laboured to save the limb after it had been infected, ultimately Ms Eagleton had to have her leg amputated.

The accident claim made by Ms Eagleton was disputed by the insurers of the driver who struck her on the grounds that she was responsible for the injuries after stepping into the path of the car. However, something must have put the fear of God in the insurers, as just a week prior to trial Ms Eagleton received a 50 per cent liability offer, earning the woman the £90,000 compensation payout.

However, one local authority in the East Midlands is even worse off, after reports emerged this week that Norfolk County Council has had to pay out in excess of £11 million thanks to the poor condition of the county’s footpaths and roads. From 2005 through 2011, there were 6,273 accident claims made against the council, according to a recent article in the Norwich Evening News, with the local authority being blamed for a wide range of damage, from pedestrians tripping over pavement cracks to cars suffering damage after hitting potholes.

1,720 of these claims were successful. This led to the massive compensation payments, the largest of which was the £63,000 paid to an individual in Great Yarmouth after they tripped on a cracked footpath and sustained fractures to their ribs.

Bad burns for one Essex man at Chelmsford engineering plant

Industry news roundup: week ended 12 Nov 2012:

This week, a rather gruesome injury made the news when a man from Essex suffered quite bad burns whilst on the job at a Chelmsford engineering plant.

The unnamed man, a thirty nine year old worker for Infinite Engineering Ltd, came into close contact with caustic soda – a substance also known as solidified sodium hydroxide – as he was tasked with cleaning out a tank of the substance. The man had been standing in the tank in order to chip away at the crystallised material within the tank when he suffered chemical burns to his face after having to lift his safety mask from his face after it misted up, obscuring his vision.

Crystals of the caustic soda alighted on the man’s face, burning both the inside of his tear duct and his eyelid. Fortunately for him, he managed to avoid getting the crystals in his eyes, as that could have led to permanent damage for his vision otherwise his vision.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive shortly after it occurred, with HSE inspectors concluding that the man’s employer should have done more to protect the worker from sustaining damage from caustic soda crystals. The HSE prosecuted the London-based Inflite Engineering Ltd, which operates from Stansted airport, resulting in a massive fine of £17,000 and court costs of £3,246 after Inflite admitted breaching health and safety regulations.

In an interview given in the wake of the court hearing, one inspector for the HSE remarked that Inflite had neglected to adequately carry out risk assessments of what it involved to clean the tank of caustic soda in a safe manner. Not only was the injured man placed in jeopardy of receiving chemical burns, pointed out the HSE inspector, but the danger of falling from the task was not accounted for as well, though luckily the employee’s injuries were relatively minor in comparison to the debilitating injuries he could have sustained.

Medical negligence leads to £37.5k in compensation

Industry news roundup: week ended 5 Nov 2012:

This week, news broke that the NHS has been made to pay for the mistakes of medical staff, awarding £37,500 in compensation following a botched surgery.

Errors that occurred during the surgery of one artist from Leicestershire to treat breast cancer racked up a massive personal injury compensation bill for the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust after a surgeon severed several nerves located in the patient’s shoulder, nearly crippling her left arm completely. Margaret Gold, a seventy year old resident of Cosby, now has to cope with an inability use her hand, wrist, and arm thanks to medical ‘professionals’ that botched her surgery at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, changing her life drastically.

The published illustrator and artist, who also worked as an art therapist prior to her surgery, has lost all feeling in her fingers and can no longer raise her wrist following what should have been a routine surgery. Mrs Gold has not set brush to canvas even once after her nerves were accidentally severed.

The 70 year old woman launched a medical negligence claim against the NHS Trust for the hospital, resulting with a personal injury compensation award of £37,500, though it’s cold comfort for a woman who made her living for decades as an artist. One of Mrs Gold’s personal injury solicitors remarked that the care received by the injured woman was far below the standard of care that would have been expected, and that if there had not been a delay in remedial treatment the damage might have been repaired by subsequent surgeries, possibly restoring some measure of movement and feeling to Mrs Gold’s hand and arm.

An NHS Trust spokesman made a full, unreserved apology to the injured artist, stating that since the incident, the hospital has instituted changes in order to ensure such other unfortunate incidents would not occur in the future. However, no amount of compensation will make Mrs Gold whole, who now must live the rest of her life without being able to create art as she did before – doubtless she would trade every last penny of that compensation award to be restored to full health.