Medical Negligence

Damages for patient who developed sepsis after hospital twice sent him home with MRSA


Vince Shore

Joint Head of Clinical Negligence (Hull)

4 min read time

A patient developed sepsis and needed treatment in intensive care after being sent home from hospital twice despite having tested positive for MRSA.

It took 55 days from the presence of the bacteria first being picked up by screening for the 77-year-old to be treated.

However, over this time his condition had worsened and he had to be admitted to intensive care at Hull Royal Infirmary, having developed sepsis.

He spent more than a month in the hospital and independent medical experts say the error, and long-term health impact, will likely result in him having a reduced life expectancy.

Now, following a legal case on his behalf, led by medical negligence claims lawyers at Hudgell Solicitors, a five-figure damages settlement has been agreed.

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The matter was subject to a serious incident review at Trust

Vince Shore, joint head of clinical negligence at Hudgell Solicitors, said the case had been subject to a Serious Incident Investigation within Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, as the results of two positive screenings for MRSA were not acted upon, or communicated to the patient He said:

This was a very serious breach of duty of care in that my client twice presented at hospital – seven weeks apart – and on both occasions he was sent home before results of screening tests were available, each of which showed him to be positive for MRSA.

Within hours of being discharged home for the second time he was readmitted with evidence of severe sepsis. His condition deteriorated over the next few hours following admission and he was taken to intensive care.

Blood cultures identified MRSA as the cause of his sepsis.

Screening for ‘superbug’ routinely carried out by hospitals

MRSA is commonly referred to as a ‘superbug’ as it is a type of bacteria that is resistant to several widely used antibiotics, making it harder to treat than other bacterial infections, and mainly affects people in hospital.

Routine screening tests are usually carried out to check a patient’s skin for MRSA before they are admitted to stay overnight in a hospital, with treatment provided to remove the bacteria and reduce the risk of infection if it is found.

As part of the case, it was alleged the Trust had breached its duty of care when failing to ensure decolonisation treatment was provided following the first positive MRSA screening.

It was also alleged there had been a failure to treat the patient with appropriate antibiotics following his second admission to hospital on November 11, 2019, given his medical records confirmed he had been MRSA positive.

The patient should have been treated immediately on first admission

Mr Shore says an independent consultant in general medicine and infectious diseases, consulted as part of the case to give an opinion on the treatment provided, said the standard practice would have been for the patient to undergo immediate ‘decolonisation therapy’ on his first hospital admission.

It transpired that a letter was sent to my client’s GP and his treating consultant alerting them to the first positive MRSA screen but neither arranged for treatment to take place,

There appeared to be a lack of clarity regarding who was responsible for organising the decolonisation and this was identified in the Trust’s own Serious Incident Investigation.

When finally discharged, after the period in intensive care, he was placed on lifelong medication to prevent the possibility of persisting infections, as he will be susceptible given he had a pacemaker fitted some years ago.

It was our case that, on the balance of probabilities, had my client been given decolonisation therapy following the positive MRSA screening swab taken on his first admission following a collapse at home, then he would not have developed MRSA and would therefore not have returned to hospital again.

He would have thereby avoided that admission to hospital, the time he spent in Intensive Care and the need for to be on lifelong medication to prevent future infections.

Trust admitted breach of duty of care

Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust admitted the MRSA screening should have been noted and actioned on the patient’s first visit, especially given he had a pacemaker fitted and was a regular visitor to the inpatient and healthcare unit due to this.

It was also admitted that there had been a failure to note and action a second MRSA screening on November 11, 2019.

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