Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has awarded £650,000 in damages to a patient after admitting delays in diagnosing a serious spinal condition.
The man, who was 66 at the time and has asked not to be named, was wrongly diagnosed by doctors when first suffering numbness in his right arm and hand.
Now left needing a walking frame and unable to pick up small objects such as books, magazines and the television remote, he has been warned he is likely to be dependent on a wheelchair in two years’ time and will lose use of his right arm completely over the next five years.
As part of a legal claim against the Trust through medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, it was alleged that 80 to 90 per cent of his current disability would have been avoided had he received appropriate and timely treatment.
After seeking advice from independent medical experts, court proceedings were issued against the Trust, which then offered the six-figure compensation settlement.
The man, a grandfather of four from East Yorkshire, who was working as a driving instructor when the illness first struck in 2012, says he has been left having to sleep downstairs at home and unable to even sign his own name.
Now aged 72, he intends to use a large amount of his settlement to buy an adapted bungalow.
Trust admitted wrong diagnosis and ‘negligent failure’ to arrange appropriate tests
When initially seeing doctors at Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham, in January 2012, the man was wrongly diagnosed and treated for carpel tunnel syndrome, a common condition that causes a tingling sensation, numbness, and sometimes pain in the hand and fingers.
He underwent an operation but as his symptoms continued he was sent for an MRI scan a year later which revealed him to have cervical myelopathy – the narrowing of the spinal canal which needs surgery to relieve and prevent pressure being placed upon the spinal cord.
Despite this serious diagnosis, there was a further delay in him being seen by a consultant neurosurgeon, and surgery to treat the condition did not take place for five months. This was despite experts confirming the patient should have had his operation within two months of the diagnosis.
As part of the legal case, the Trust admitted the man never had carpal tunnel syndrome and underwent an unnecessary procedure, during which a nerve in his wrist was damaged.
The Trust also admitted the majority of his present disability arose after October 2012 – seven months after the negligent carpal tunnel operation – and that there had been a “negligent failure” to arrange nerve conduction or other associated tests when first seen in January.
Grandfather now forced to live downstairs and facing life in a wheelchair
The man said: “It’s been terrible, I’ve been left able to hold my walking frame but that’s about it.
“I can’t even sign my name properly now and my condition has put a lot of pressure on my partner to look after me and the house because I can’t grip.
“Day-to-day life isn’t that good and I have to have a bed downstairs because I can’t manage the stairs. I’m livid. I’m 72, I have four grandchildren and we wanted to be able to have some decent time left in our lives at this age. We want to enjoy what life we have left, but everything is now so difficult.”
In admitting breach of duty of care, the Trust accepted there had been a delay in recognising the man’s symptoms were due to cervical spine compression and disc protrusion, and that as a consequence and lack of appropriate treatment, his condition deteriorated at a faster rate.
The man said: “The care I received was totally inadequate and I was left in a vulnerable position.
“The Trust didn’t seem to have any consideration. I trusted what they said at the hospital and I went through an operation unnecessarily. I’m not a doctor, so I trusted them.
“Eventually, they sent me for a nerve conduction test and I learnt that I should have had that before any operation was mentioned because they found out it was nothing to do with carpal tunnel syndrome. It was linked to two compressed vertebrae in my neck, which was revealed by an MRI scan.
“They had to put spacers in my neck to open up the gaps between the vertebrae, which involved another operation. But it still didn’t fix the problem as it was left so late, it didn’t have the required effect and I’m in this position now.
“I hope things will only get better, now but it’s affecting my left arm too.”
Compensation to fund new adapted bungalow to make life easier
Solicitor Laura Larkin, who represented the man on behalf of Hudgell Solicitors, said: “My client’s mobility has deteriorated rapidly during the course of this claim as a direct result of the negligent medical care he received.
“He is now confined to the ground floor of his home and relies upon his partner for round-the-clock care. His mobility is declining rapidly, he needs a wheelchair to go out and has been told by experts consulted as part of the case that he will need a wheelchair indoors by 2019.
“By the time he had surgery to stop the compression to his spinal cord, the damage had already been done.
“Whilst the Trust has now admitted negligently treating him for carpal tunnel syndrome, these errors cannot be reversed.
“Whilst everyone slows down and begins to struggle as they get older, it was the opinion of an independent medical expert that because of the damage to his spinal cord, my client will be unable to compensate for the natural ageing process, which means that, over time, his condition will continue to deteriorate.
“He has suffered severe pain, particularly in his left arm where his nerves were damaged during the carpal tunnel operation, and his life has been forever changed at a time when he was hoping to spend quality time with his loved ones.
“I am pleased that we managed to secure a significant settlement which I understand he intends to put funds towards the purchase of an adapted bungalow. I hope that helps him regain some of his independence and improves his quality of life, as well as that of all of his family members who have become responsible for caring for him.”
The man thanked Hudgell Solicitors, who took over the case from another firm in 2014, for holding the Trust to account.
He said: “Hudgell Solicitors have been really supportive and Laura Larkin was really good. She explained everything really clearly from when she took the case on and got a good result for me to help me going forward.”