A Hospital Trust has admitted its errors caused a patient to be left with broken bones in her foot for a year – causing damage beyond repair.
The 65-year-old woman, who has asked not to be named, is now buying a bungalow to make life at home easier following the successful conclusion of her legal case against Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
Despite being informed she had suffered a fracture when attending hospital in Beverley following a fall, she was wrongly told by Hull Royal Infirmary’s Fracture Clinic the following day that it was an ‘old injury, with no new fracture apparent.’
Over the next 12 months she was repeatedly sent away by doctors despite suffering continuing pain as she attempted to get on with life.
On one occasion, after her GP referred her back to the hospital due to continuing pain, she saw a specialist in hip and knee surgery rather than foot injuries, who simply told her to wait another three months to see if it improved.
It was only when she contacted the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) to make a complaint that she was finally seen by a foot injuries specialist, a year after suffering the injury.
He told her she had developed joint disease as a result of the breakdown of cartilage and underlying bone, and that the joint had split away as a result. She was wrongly informed at that stage that she was suffering from Charcot foot and that there was a risk she may need her foot amputating.
Although amputation was not required in the end, the extent of the damage caused was such that remedial surgery was not an option.
The woman, who says she was treated with ‘a total lack of care, compassion and concern’ has been left unable to put weight on her foot, and was forced to quit her job early.
The successful legal case against the Trust has enabled the woman to press ahead with plans to buy a bungalow, as she needs ground floor accommodation.
She relies on her husband to do almost all jobs around the home, and he now effectively acts as a full-time carer having retired himself.
Legal action secured admissions of errors and ‘unreserved apology’ for failings in treatment
Following legal action through medical negligence claims specialists Hudgell Solicitors, Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust eventually admitted a number of failings and made an ‘unreserved apology’.
It admitted errors including failing to identify the injury on the initial x-ray, failing to conduct an adequate investigation when the patient returned two weeks later and had a cast removed, and in discharging her that day without any orthopaedic review of her injury.
Helena Wood, a specialist in handling claims of misdiagnosis at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “This was a very serious case where the failure to correctly diagnose a common injury to metatarsal bones has resulted in life-changing injuries for this lady.
“There was a catalogue of errors in her care. Not only was there the failure to correctly diagnose the injury at the initial x-ray stage, there was also a lack of care and dedication to fully investigate the injury when our client retuned to hospital to have her cast removed.
“Had further investigation taken place at that point this injury could have been spotted and treated at that stage, and the opinion of independent experts we consulted was that the injury would then have been likely to have fully recovered with appropriate conservative treatment, and a period of non-weight bearing.
“Instead our client was sent home to struggle and cause further irreversible injury. She has suffered more than six years of pain and injury, loss and damage. Her foot is always painful on weight bearing and her walking distance is severely limited.
“We were glad to bring the case to a successful conclusion for our client and secure admissions with regards the impact this poor treatment has had not only on her life, but also her husband and family who have supported her though this ordeal, and continue to do so.
“We are particularly pleased that our client is now looking to buy a bungalow, where she will be much more comfortable.”
Patient says life hit a ‘downward spiral’ after accident and hospital’s mistakes
The woman, who was 59-years-old when the accident happened in September 2011, said that despite doctors at Hull Royal Infirmary’s Fracture Clinic insisting there had been no break, her foot was placed in plaster for two weeks.
When she returned, the cast was removed and no further x-rays were taken.
She said: “I was shocked when they first x-rayed it and said it was an old injury. Neither myself nor my husband of more than 30 years had any recollection of me having any injury to my foot and we said that, but they insisted it was an old injury showing up.
“When I returned to remove the cast two weeks later the nurse told me I could leave as the foot just had a soft tissue injury. I was shocked by this and told the nurse that it hurt to apply pressure, but she was fairly curt and said that she had been told by the doctor that it was fine and that I should go home. I was not seen by a doctor and just discharged.
“I was surprised at what I was being told, but I felt I had to believe the medical professionals and that I had no choice. They didn’t take a further x-ray and I left with my husband having to wheel me to the car in a wheelchair.
“I attempted to get on with things as best as I could over the next few weeks but I was in constant pain. I was unable to put any pressure or weight on my foot and it was so bad my neighbour gave me a walking stick to use.”
Having been referred for physiotherapy, and trying various shoe styles to lessen the pain, she returned to her GP nine months after suffering the injury and having developed a limp. He agreed the injury should have heeled by that stage.
“When I did finally see the foot specialist I was absolutely distraught to be told I may end up with a foot amputation, which thankfully was not necessary,” she said.
“I feel totally let down by the indifference and total lack of care, compassion and concern shown by the staff in the Fracture Clinic when I had first suffered the injury.
“My life took a sudden downward spiral and despite trying to find work which I could handle with the injury, I had to quit completely in 2015
“I was left unable to enjoy simply things like exercise and walking the dog, which upset me greatly. I tried swimming as an alternative form of exercise but even that hurt, and I struggled getting in and out of the pool.
“I have spent a lot of money on pain relief medication and in adapting orthotic shoes. I now live in great discomfort and the pain is such that I have not had a full night’s sleep since.”