Medical Negligence

Woman left with fractured knee for months after hospital failed to x-ray injury awarded £65,000 damages

knee injury medical negligence

Michelle Tebbutt

Team Leader & Senior Associate Solicitor

6 min read time

A woman has been awarded £65,000 damages after she was left struggling on a fractured knee for almost six months because doctors at A&E wrongly diagnosed it as a soft tissue injury without taking an x-ray.

The 47-year-old was unable to place any weight on her right leg after suffering a fall when out on a walk and was taken to the emergency department at Hull Royal Infirmary where – despite her repeatedly saying the pain was in her knee – an x-ray was only taken of her ankle.

She was told she had simply strained her knee, that it would improve in time and that it was ok to walk on. Such was the pain she was in however, she had to borrow a hospital wheelchair just to get to her brother-in-law’s car when he picked her up.

When she returned home, with her husband away due to work, she had to sleep in her lounge and scramble up the stairs on her bottom to go to the toilet, as she was unable to stand. Due to missing so much time off work – and her injury only classified as a sprain – she lost her job.

“It had a really big impact on my life and it was a real struggle to cope,” she said.

“What made it particularly frustrating was the fact I wasn’t listened to. The pain was so bad in my knee, I’d say 7 out of 10, but my ankle was fine other than there was an area of dry skin on it. I said ‘it’s my knee’ many times, but I was ignored.

“Even when I went through to have the x-ray taken on my ankle, I said to the staff to check my knee also, but they couldn’t because that was not what was written down for them to do on the notes.

“I was told it was a strain and that it was best to walk on it, but I couldn’t. My brother-in-law came to pick me up and he had to push me to the car in a wheelchair. It was ridiculous.”

Legal case established failure to x-ray knee was negligent

As part of a legal case against Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, led by Hudgell Solicitors, it was admitted that it had been negligent not to take an x-ray of the woman’s knee at the time, in March 2018.

It was also admitted that had one been taken, the fracture would have been identified and her knee would have been supported in a splint or cast, with a referral made to the specialist orthopaedic team and thereafter surgery to fix the fracture.

Having lived with the pain for six weeks, and having seen a private physio, it was only when the woman returned to her doctor that she was referred to the Musculoskeletal (MSK) Triage Service for an MRI scan.

Even then she was still made to wait another four months before undergoing the scan, which finally revealed the fracture, and a build-up of fluid around the knee and ligaments.

The woman says she burst into tears when called with the results by her physio.

“I can remember him calling and he just said stop what you are doing now, your knee is broken. I just burst into tears because I’d had months of walking on it, exercising it and stretching it, in pain, and I was blaming myself for not doing enough to make it better. I was annoyed that I’d gone through all that for nothing,” she said.

“I was sent to see a consultant urgently and he basically said he couldn’t imagine seeing a worse knee injury. I was told that as there was a big chunk of bone missing it couldn’t be effectively repaired and that I would need a full knee replacement, which I had done in December 2019.”

Solicitor says knee replacement surgery could have been avoided

Associate Solicitor Michelle Tebbutt, a specialist in medical negligence claims at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “This was a case where the initial examination was not thorough enough and not in keeping with the reported symptoms.

“Our client was unable to put any weight on her knee and there was a clear failure to follow the guidelines for reported knee injuries. That basic error led to a significant period of pain of suffering and long-term problems.

“It was a concern to hear our client say that she repeatedly said her major pain was in her knee, and that her comments were dismissed. Had she been listened to and had an x-ray of her knee taken, the fracture would have been diagnosed and less invasive surgery undertaken.

“She would not have suffered the pain and difficulties in life as she did for almost six months, and would not have needed the knee replacement surgery. It was all avoidable by taking an x-ray, so we hope this case has led to reviews at the Trust as to how decisions such as this are made.”

The woman has now returned to work following her knee replacement, and says she made a legal claim as the errors had ‘a huge impact on life’.

“It still impacts on me today and when I think back it was a terrible time which could have been avoided,” she said.

“I’d had a previous incident of poor care at the hospital so when this happened I was determined to take it further. It’s still painful at times, on the side of my knee and leg particularly, and there are many hobbies I used to do which I simply can’t any more.

“I missed a lot of time at work, and then lost my job, so I lost quite a bit in terms of earnings.

“That’s not acceptable and so that’s why I sought legal advice. Michelle Tebbutt supported me throughout. She was always in touch to explain what was happening and reassured me about the case and how it was progressing. I was happy with the result.”

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.

Read more: Medical and Clinical Negligence

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