Medical Negligence

London Spire Healthcare hospital admits failings led to death of patient who died of sepsis following surgery

Nafisa Khan and her daughter in 2010

Matthew Gascoyne

Team Leader & Senior Associate Solicitor

4 min read time

A London-based Spire Healthcare hospital has admitted its failings led to the death of a patient who developed sepsis following surgery.

Nafisa Khan, a 58-year-old mother-of-five from Ilford, east London, underwent a planned procedure to remove her gallbladder at the Spire London East Hospital on September 4, 2021, during which she suffered a perforation to her small intestine.

The following morning she was complaining of being in pain, was sick, and had low blood oxygen levels.

Using a standard practice in which observations of a patient’s respiration rate, oxygen, blood pressure, pulse, level of consciousness or new confusion and temperature are used to assess their condition, she should have been transferred to an NHS hospital for urgent critical care.

However, this did not happen and she was instead put on intravenous antibiotics, given oxygen and placed under further observation.

Further assessments throughout the day highlighted ‘red flag warnings’ – including high lactate levels in the blood (signs of a disease or a condition being present) – before a decision was made to transfer her to an NHS hospital.

This was almost 12 hours after the initial assessments had suggested she was in need of critical care.

Mrs Khan was admitted to the Queen’s Hospital in Romford later that evening, where she was diagnosed with sepsis secondary to perforation of her small intestine and underwent surgery to repair this.

Unfortunately, her condition was so poor that she developed multi-organ dysfunction and died after suffering two cardiac arrests the following day.

Her cause of death was recorded as multi-organ failure, resulting from sepsis following acute pancreatitis and hypertension.


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Legal case alleged highlighted failure to transfer to critical care

The woman’s family instructed medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, who alleged the hospital had breached its duty of care in failing to ensure Mrs Khan received timely critical care.

They said this should have happened at around 8 am on the day after her operation, as her NEWS2 score – the scoring system used across healthcare – had reached seven by 8 am, a level at which sepsis should automatically be considered, and should have led to an urgent critical care admission.

That transfer did not happen until 9.50 pm, and she did not arrive at the hospital until 10.50 pm.

Solicitor Matthew Gascoyne, of Hudgell Solicitors, said:

There was a clear failure to act appropriately when, following her operation, Mrs Khan’s condition rapidly deteriorated.

Observations were taken and there were clear red flag warning symptoms which pointed to her being acutely unwell and in need of specialist critical care.

It was accepted by the Spire Hospital as part of the case that, had appropriate care been provided at that time, she would likely recovered from the injury she suffered from surgery and survived.

Whilst that admission has been important for her family, it has been equally devastating to know she should still be here with them today. Her death has had a crushing impact on them, with the same feeling of loss today as they felt two-and-half years ago, as she was the heart of their family.

‘Without her, we have stopped living’

Mrs Khan’s husband, Imran, said:

Nafisa was very much the centre of our family and the person who made sure that the family and our home ran smoothly.

Her focus was on caring for me and our children, making sure that we had a nice home to live in and that we were looked after and comfortable. She lived for her family and we lived for her.

Without her, we have stopped living as a family and, instead, are simply existing as individuals sharing space.

With Spire Healthcare having admitted breach of its duty of care, legal parties are now to agree a damages settlement for her family which will include compensation for loss of financial dependency and services, love and affection, and bereavement.

The case is to be featured on a BBC Panorama documentary tonight, ‘NHS Patients Going Private…What Are The Risks?’ on BBC 1 at 8 pm.

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