By Lauren Dale, Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors
In our work as medical negligence specialist solicitors, we strive to achieve two clear goals in each and every case we handle.
Firstly, we seek justice and compensation for those we represent.
Our clients turn to us at difficult times, and hope Hudgell Solicitors can help them find the answers to their questions and concerns – answers they would most likely never get without our legal expertise and support.
They have usually been let down by sub-standard care, and our role ensures members of the public can hold those responsible to account, ensure they admit to the mistakes they have made, and ultimately compensate them for the pain and suffering caused, and reimburse them for their financial loss.
Secondly, and this is something which is often missed by those commenting on the impact of our role, we look to help medical establishments and professionals to identify where avoidable errors have been made, and hopefully instigate the introduction of new procedures and policies to ensure such mistakes are not repeated in the future.
By holding the medical profession fully to account, we firmly believe that we can help improve the standard of care in hospital wards and departments across the country.
This was certainly highlighted in a recent case in which we represented the husband of a cancer sufferer who sadly died after falling from a hospital trolley after being left alone.
Christine Carpenter, 61, had battled ovarian and peritoneal cancer over a 15-year period before she was told treatment had been unsuccessful and it had spread, becoming terminal.
After respite at a Community Hospital, she was admitted to Hull Royal Infirmary’s accident and emergency department, as she needed a drip fitting due to being dehydrated.
Mrs Carpenter then fell from her hospital trolley and suffered a hip fracture, which required surgery. As a result, she then contracted an infection, which led to septicaemia and caused her death.
It was a tragic accident, but an entirely avoidable situation.
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, offered a full and unreserved apology following our legal representation on behalf of Mrs Carpenter’s family, admitted causing the fracture, and agreed to pay a five-figure compensation settlement.
Of course, this was welcomed by Mrs Carpenter’s husband, but devastated by his loss, financial compensation and an apology will not bring his wife back, and will never be enough. No compensation can ever be enough following the loss of a loved one.
The positive change to come from the case has been the hospital making alterations and improvements in terms of future care.
Without doubt, this is as a direct result of this case being subject to such scrutiny, and the hospital being held fully to account.
Mike Wright, chief nurse at the Trust, said changes in practice had been made ‘to minimise the likelihood of such an event happening again’.
These changes have included the introduction of a ‘specific falls risk assessment tool’ in the emergency department and ‘changes to the physical care environment for frail and elderly patients.’
A new technique called ‘intentional rounding’ has also been introduced on the accident and emergency ward, to ensure patients’ needs are more closely reviewed at regular intervals.
For Mrs Carpenter’s family, it may well seem too little, too late, and that is of course entirely understandable. For those who have lost loved ones after sub-standard care, it sadly always is.
But for others, and families with relatives and loved ones entering hospital in similar circumstances going forward, it will ensure they are given better care.
Improved care has to be the aim from any case where a hospital faces legal action over negligent care, and it will always be a priority for us.