A man who developed sepsis after doctors at a Hull health centre failed to diagnose a urinary infection and told him he had flu has been awarded £18,000 in damages.
The patient, who was 47 at the time, was advised to attend at an out-of-hours surgery after calling 111 because he was suffering from increasingly worsening headaches, shivers, and in pain when urinating.
However, when attending at the Westbourne NHS Centre in Hull he was diagnosed with mild dehydration and was advised to take paracetamol, ibuprofen and drink plenty of fluids. The doctor did not carry out a dipstick urine test despite his pain when going to the toilet.
Despite taking the medication and ensuring he consumed more fluids, the patient saw no improvement over the next two days and began suffering from pins and needles all over his body. When he returned to the
Westbourne NHS Centre he was then prescribed antibiotics.
Two days later, feeling extremely ill, the man went to his usual GP, who advised him to go to Hull Royal Infirmary where he was admitted and diagnosed with sepsis and a perinephric abscess (an abscess on the kidney), which required treatment with intravenous antibiotics.
The man, who spent more than a week in hospital in June 2014, says the illness still impacts on his health today, and that it was a frightening experience.
“It really took it out of me, and even when I was back home I couldn’t really walk for the first two or three weeks,” he said.
“Even today, three years on, physically I can’t do many things I used to. I used to run every day but now I can’t run at all. I just don’t have the strength or energy.
“What I can’t forgive is the centre not being thorough on that first night when I was ill and I had been shivering so badly and in pain when going to the toilet.
“The signs were there, and I didn’t think they showed the care you expect and didn’t take my illness and symptoms serious enough.”
Legal case alleging misdiagnosis led to offer of damages
As part of a legal claim on behalf of the patient led by medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, it was alleged the Westbourne Centre, which is run by the City Health Care Partnership CIC, had been negligent due to its failure to carry out a urine dipstick test on the patient’s first visit, despite his symptoms of pain when passing urine.
It was claimed that by doing this the urinary tract infection (UTI) would have been discovered and appropriate treatment been given sooner.
As a result, the patient was offered the £18,000 damages settlement, which he accepted, and Rachel O’Connor, part of the clinical negligence claims team at Hudgell Solicitors, said this reflected the significant impact the illness had on his life.
She said: “This case, like so many others that we see, was a result of the failure of health professionals to recognise the extent of a patient’s illness and fully investigate all symptoms on initial assessment. Too often we see cases where the basic tests in relation to clear symptoms are not carried out.
“Only by following guidance and protocols with regards to all patients can health bodies ensure they not only provide the right treatment, but also that such treatment is provided in a timely manner to prevent any further issues developing.
“As patients, we all expect the most thorough of checks to be conducted whenever we walk through the door of a health provider.
“In this case, had the dipstick test been completed when our client first attended at the Westbourne Health Centre, it is likely that he would have been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and oral antibiotics would have been prescribed immediately.
“It was our case that on the balance of probabilities the antibiotics would then have controlled our client’s infection and he would not have proceeded to develop sepsis and the perinephric abscess.
“It was the opinion of independent medical experts we consulted that there had been a breach of duty of care in failing to carry out the initial test, and we were pleased that this was recognised by the offer of damages being made following submission of our case.”
When untreated UTIs spread to the kidney, causing more pain, illness, they can lead to sepsis.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition which can be caused by any infection, but one which can be easily treated if caught early.
The patient added: “After I’d left hospital I had to see my own GP regularly, and he said that I was lucky that the abscess and sepsis was finally caught when it was, as he said it could have got much more serious very quickly. That was a worrying thought. You expect doctors to do things right every time, but obviously they don’t.”