Errors made by doctors when treating a woman following an epileptic seizure contributed to her suffering a string of additional long-term health problems for which she requires round the clock care.
Despite having learning difficulties, Katrina Stringfellow, 35, managed the condition – which causes recurrent seizures and affects around 600,000 people in the UK – so well that she’d not had an epileptic episode for 16 years.
However, following a rare series of fits in May 2013, she was rushed to Calderdale Royal Hospital in West Yorkshire.
As part of a legal case it was alleged that negligent treatment – as doctors failed to give her the doses of seizure-controlling medication required – caused her to suffer a string of extra long-term health problems.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has now admitted failings after a case was brought against it through medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors.
Trust admitted errors in administering medication to control seizures
The Trust admitted a number of errors with regard to provision and administering of seizure-controlling medication, including wrongly ending a course of treatment to failing to increase the dose of another, and the failure to provide appropriate alternative medication.
It also admitted that evening doses of required medication were not given on two occasions, whilst it also accepted that is monitoring of Katrina’s medication when transferring her between wards was inadequate.
Tasmin White, the solicitor who represented the family, said poor care had caused her Katrina to suffer unnecessarily and caused extra difficulties for her going forward.
This includes the loss of memory and communication skills, leaving her now unable to care for herself as she did previously and heavily reliant on her carers and mother Karen.
Katrina has now been awarded a five-figure compensation settlement as a result of the legal claim to help with her future needs and care.
Her mother, Karen Stringfellow, of Halifax, West Yorkshire, has agreed to speak about what happened to her daughter as she believes it has highlighted gaps in the treatment and knowledge of how to care for epileptic patients in hospital. She has already lost one daughter, Krisia, to epilepsy, and Katrina’s sister, Kasia, also requires 24-hour care.
Katrina was under the care of doctors at Calderdale Royal Infirmary for almost six weeks after her admission and failed to return to her previous level of functioning following discharge.
Her extra health problems included possible lasting brain damage, poor memory, increased emotions, difficulty performing everyday tasks and the need to be prompted to look after herself.
Mother worried about care and training with regard to epileptic patients
Ms Stringfellow said: “What happened to Katrina shouldn’t happen to anyone. I asked the nurses who were caring for her what specific epilepsy training they’d had and they told me it was very little, that is very concerning.
“From what I saw, there were no protocols or procedures being followed to care for patients with epilepsy. Katrina had lots of fits whilst she was in hospital and they should have been logging every one, the details of how long it was for, what type of fit it was, her reactions and her recovery, but they didn’t even sit with her through the fits.
“I counted 24 fits one day and I logged them myself. Katrina didn’t even have time to go to sleep because the fits were so regular.
“I remember trying to get her into bed one particular day and she fell onto it. She turned around to me and said ‘what’s the point’. It broke me. She had given up.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. In my opinion there needs to be more training in the hospitals because epilepsy can be managed.”
According to statistics, one in every 103 people has epilepsy in the UK and 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy every day. Only 52 per cent of people with epilepsy in the UK are seizure-free, but it is estimated that 70 per cent could be seizure free with the right treatment.
Ms Stringfellow questioned the hospital’s reluctance to listen to her advice regarding medication, choosing to move her daughter on to new medication rather than using her own.
“They didn’t have any of the medication she’d been taking at home at the hospital when Katrina was admitted, and they wouldn’t let me give her what I’d taken in from home. They managed to get some the following day, but Katrina still didn’t receive it as she had been transferred to another ward.
“Finally, on the third day, she had the same medication, but by that time she’d had three days on new medication which would
have no impact as it takes that long to get into the system.
“They also told me they had someone to look after her, but then they rang me in the early hours of the morning and asked me to go in to sit with her. They moved her around so much while she was in there it was crazy.”
Legal claim alleged negligent care causing extended period of seizures
As part of the legal claim, it was alleged that negligent care in hospital caused Katrina unnecessary pain and suffering and to suffer extended and unnecessary periods of seizures.
It was alleged the failings in care caused an exacerbation of her pre-existing symptoms, possible brain damage, memory loss and an inability to swallow, resulting in her needing to be fed through a tube.
Katrina needed speech and language therapy, physio and occupational therapy, and additional care and assistance when eventually returning home.
Ms Stringfellow says she has seen a big change in her daughter’s personality since returning home as she now lacks motivation and has lost her self-confidence. She was left with foot problems and requires a splint, and also has a shortened Achilles, causing her to stoop forward when moving.
She added: “Katrina was an independent young lady and she used to swim with me. Now, she is more reliant on me and calls me ‘mummy’, which she hasn’t done since she was a child. She was in bed for so long, she now has a damaged foot, she stutters when she talks and is 10 per cent more disabled than before.
“We have managed to get quite a lot of Katrina back over the past couple of years but it has been hard work. She had to go for physio to help her walk again, she needed salts to help her swallow and she had to learn how to go to the toilet again.
“I’ve felt that I’ve had to share what happened as this is not just about speaking out for my daughter. I’m speaking out for all people
who have epilepsy and who may need the appropriate care in hospital.
“There needs to be more awareness and more understanding. There certainly wasn’t for Katrina when she needed care and it’s such a worry.”
Damages settlement can help provide for needs
Solicitor Mrs White said: “Katrina was 31 at time of her treatment in hospital and at that time she was able bodied and living independently with support, and she could communicate well.
“Her life has changed considerably as a result of the hospital’s failure to provide her with the treatment she required. She has suffered mainly with a change in personality and now has many additional needs as a result of what happened. She has been left a vulnerable person needing extra support.
“I’m pleased Katrina has been awarded this compensation and reached this result to help her move forward. The money will certainly help provide for her needs.
Ms Stringfellow was grateful for the support of Hudgell Solicitors through very tough times, and said: “Tasmin is lovely and has been brilliant for us. She talked me through everything and listened to me.
“I’m really pleased with the support we’ve received from Hudgell Solicitors and the final result we have had.”