Medical Negligence

Father, 30, told he may have only three years to live after doctors missed blood clot on lungs, leading to 12-month delay in diagnosis

clinical misdiagnosis

Helena Wood

Team Leader & Associate Chartered Legal Executive

7 min read time

A father has told how doctors warned him at the age of just 30 that he may have as little as three years to live without emergency surgery – and that a blood clot on his lungs should have been spotted on scans 12 month earlier.

The error by doctors at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, Wales, left the patient facing an uncertain future at a time when he had a two-year-old daughter and a 20-year mortgage on his home with wife.

Even after surgery to remove the clotting and a year on medication, he was told his life expectancy was just five years and that doctors were reluctant to ‘get his hopes up’ for a longer life.

The outlook now finally looks much more positive, as having trialled a new medication since November 2018, his health has improved to give him a life expectancy into his seventies.

However, he now faces the rest of his life living with significantly reduced breathing capacity. It has forced him to quit his job as a carpenter and limited his ability to do day-to-day chores around the family home, and to exercise and play with his children.

He is also likely to need home adaptations such as a stair lift much earlier in his life than would have been the case had the clot been diagnosed and treated at the first opportunity.

The man had previously suffered from pneumonia in 2015, when doctors found scarring on his lungs which they believed may have been caused by a previous infection.  From that point onwards he began to struggle increasingly, often being out of breath, even after minimal activity.

In January 2016, having been under specialist respiratory care for some time, he underwent a CT scan at Nevill Hall Hospital which showed blood clots on his lung. However, it was wrongly reported as showing ‘no significant abnormality’ by a consultant radiologist.

With his condition not improving he underwent a further planned follow-up CT scan on in July 2016, where it was concluded there had been ‘no significant change’.

Six months later, as he was still struggling from shortness of breath on mild exertion, his GP referred him to hospital again with a view to ruling out any potential heart problem.

It was only then, when results came back in February 2017, that he was told he had blood clots on his lung – and that they had been there when the two scans had been taken the previous year.

Legal case resulted in six-figure out-of-court damages settlement

The patient has now accepted a six-figure damages settlement after Hudgell Solicitors led a medical negligence compensation claim on his behalf against Aneurin Bevan University Local Health Board.

He says it has given his family financial stability after years of worry caused by having to give up his job as a manual worker.

“We’ve had some very difficult and worrying years all as a result of scan results not being checked carefully and properly reviewed,” he said.

“For someone who is still relatively young, and with two young daughters, not being able to do the things I should be able to do with them because a mistake was made is hard to accept.

“My girls are only really young so I really struggle running around with them, and if we are on a day out at a park or the beach I can run for a couple of minutes and then I have to sit and have a rest. They ask me why I’ve stopped playing.

“My wife has to do most of the housework and childcare, which we used to share equally. I get dizzy and I am unable to decorate my house or do any carpentry, which is frustrating for me because I used to be able to do those jobs around the house.

The man says being unable to work when self-employed had a big impact on his life, and caused a great deal of extra worry and stress during an already difficult time.

“We struggled to pay bills for some time,” he said.

“We’ve always liked to live by our means, but when you have a mortgage and all the other expenses families have, it’s tough when you can’t earn. We got into debt and that was not something I was comfortable with.”

‘Basic errors reviewing scans are seen far too often’

Medical negligence specialist Helena Wood, of Hudgell Solicitors, alleged breaches of duty of care by failing to note the blood clot on the scan in January 2016, delaying treatment by twelve months.

Representatives for Aneurin Bevan University Local Health Board accepted liability for the delay in diagnosis but initially offered just a £10,000 settlement.

The claim settled for more than 10 times that amount after Hudgells secured independent expert medical opinion.

Ms Wood said: “This was a very costly, basic error and one we see far too many examples of at hospitals across the UK. The failure to properly review scans can result in significant suffering and harm for patients.

“As happened in this case, it usually results in significant delays in diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and conditions which can cause serious harm when left untreated. In this case the negligence caused a one-year delay in treatment, and a permanently increased respiratory disability.

“The impact of that delay was significant and it must have been terrifying for him to be told that without surgery he had as little as three more years to live.

“It was the opinion of independent medical experts that we consulted when investigating his case that with the right diagnosis and treatment the only restrictions he would have suffered would be with carrying heavy shopping or doing heavy gardening.

“He would have been able to continue his work as a carpenter, a job he’d had from being an apprentice and really loved.

“We hope this case has led to reviews within this healthcare provider as to the processes in place when reviewing CT scans, and that of course the damages help him and his family have a more comfortable life moving forward.”

The man has now secured work in a physically less demanding role, although he struggles with some of activities required. He has had to give up many lifelong activities and hobbies also.

“I’m limited in all I do now and I have to try and come to terms with that,” he said.

“I have felt down at times because of what has happened. I have tried to make the best of it but life has totally changed for me, because I can’t enjoy the things I used to enjoy, and I’m also aware of the strain it has put on my wife, who has her own demanding job.

“I find it hard to accept. This could have been avoided to some extent with earlier treatment. I would be a different husband and father – the husband and father I want to be.”

No matter how high the standards of care and treatment in our health services, things can sometimes go wrong. Medical negligence occurs if you receive substandard treatment by a medical professional, whether that’s directly causing an injury, or making an injury or condition worse.

Medical negligence can also happen if you are misdiagnosed, receive the wrong treatment, or a mistake is made during surgery.

We understand that no amount of medical negligence compensation can change what you’ve been through, but it can help to relieve financial pressures caused, such as by medical bills or the loss of earnings, helping you to move forward with your life.

You can begin by contacting us via our claim form and selecting Medical Negligence as the type of claim.

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