Damages Settled for Mother’s Death in Catalogue of Errors

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A grieving brother and sister devastated by a catalogue of errors that cost their mother her life have secured a five-figure settlement in a clinical negligence case, with the help of national law firm Simpson Millar LLP.

Irene

The untimely death of 86-year old Irene Floyer from sepsis, caused by a post-operative MRSA infection following hip replacement surgery at Northampton General Hospital on 9 March 2011, was found to be the result of a series of medical blunders.

Compensation was never an issue for us and it can never make up for the tragic loss of our mother and the frustration we experienced in the aftermath in trying to get to the bottom of why she died. Our main hope is that by exposing the mismanagement of the treatment she received, improved practices will be put in place to safeguard others,” says Elizabeth Floyer-Moss.

Elizabeth’s brother, Alex Floyer was at home with Irene in the village of Flore, Northamptonshire, when she collapsed in pain and after an examination by her doctor was taken to hospital by ambulance. X-rays showed a fractured hip and she was operated on the next morning.

“What happened next was simply tragic; not just for mum but for me, my sister and everyone who loved her,” says Alex.

Irene bled profusely both during and after surgery, and the wound subsequently became infected with MRSA and became septic.

“To make things worse we later discovered that doctors failed to discover Mum’s inherited bleeding disorder during the pre-operative assessment even though it was recorded in her notes. Excessive bleeding is associated with an increased risk of infection,” explains Alex. “Had Mum’s condition been recognised before surgery it would have been catered for and she wouldn’t have contracted the infection which lead to her death.”

Following surgery, she wasn’t looked after properly either, this meant the infection wasn’t diagnosed straight away so she didn’t get the treatment she needed to fight it. When the trust did finally diagnose she had MRSA there was a further delay of 10 days before they took her back to theatre to wash the wound out and remove the infected tissue. In the meantime they began antibiotic treatment, only to halt them for several days – and by then she’d got sepsis.”

Irene’s wound was washed out on 27 and 30 March when the prosthesis was removed, but it remained septic. Irene went into septic shock which caused her kidneys to fail. She was admitted to the HDU on 2 April but died on 5 April.

“Poor Mum had to undergo two further surgeries to clean the wound but by then it was too deep-seated and we lost her.”

Lengthy Complaint

Alex and Elizabeth were deeply unhappy with Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust and wrote a lengthy complaint over Irene’s inadequate medical treatment. The Trust failed to provide satisfactory answers regarding their mother’s treatment.

It was then that they got in touch with Simpson Millar.

“What makes this so hard to come to terms with is that mum would have survived had medical staff given her the proper care she needed,” says Alex. “Until the morning of the fracture, she was fitter than she had been for a long time and the happiest I’d seen her since the loss of our brother Richard in 2007. There’s no reason why she would not have continued to be living a rich and fulfilled family and village life with her new hip if the proper steps had been taken to give her adequate post-operative care. Instead she died needlessly of an infection which should not have happened, and which wasn’t then promptly diagnosed or treated.”

An expert medical negligence solicitor at Simpson Millar LLP says that the before court proceedings commenced, the Trust admitted to some negligent care in Irene’s case. The Trust conceded it had failed to provide appropriate pressure area care which caused ulcers; that it had failed to provide adequate nutrition; that it had discontinued IV antibiotics for the MRSA infection between 19 and 24 March 2011; and that the first wound washout had been provided too late.

Having investigated the care provided to Irene with the help of independent expert reports from a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and a Consultant Clinical Microbiologist, they also discovered that staff at the Trust could have taken steps to reduce Irene’s large amount of blood loss which would have decreased the risk of post-operative infection and the subsequent sepsis from which she died. There was further negligence in the delay in taking swabs and bloods to test for infection despite the fact that persistent wound leakage within 72 hours of hip replacement surgery is well-known to correlate with peri-prosthetic joint infection.

From 11 March Irene’s wound was recorded as leaking copious amounts of bloody discharge on a daily basis but it was simply observed and dressed by the nursing staff and there was no input from the Orthopaedic team. Irene required timely diagnosis by microbiological swabbing, antibiotics and surgical washout and debridement. Furthermore, the first washout should have been performed by 16 March and when it eventually took place on 27 March the removal or exchange of the prosthesis should have been considered.

They say: “There was a catalogue of basic failings in Mrs Floyer’s care and it is important that those involved take the time to reflect on their actions and learn from their mistakes to stop it happening to other patients in the future. "

“Losing a family member is devastating, but when that loss was avoidable it haunts those left behind and leaves them undeservedly feeling guilty that perhaps they could or should have done more. Families have to be able to entrust elderly relatives into the care of medical professionals and the emphasis is now on the Trust to prove that they deserve that trust by demonstrating that lessons have been learnt from the failings in Mrs Floyer’s care.”

Before responding to the additional failures of Irene’s care the Trust made a number of offers to settle the claim. Following negotiation the case was settled for a 5 figure sum.

A caring life

Alex says his mother was a caring person who had been brought up by her father and an extended family of grandparents and aunts after her own mother’s death when she was just six years old. She always put others before herself, and entered into village life with gusto when she settled down in Flore after meeting Alex’s father Len at an afternoon matinee and moving to his home village when she married him.

“When she left school she worked at the Coop bakery so it was only natural that she showed her kindness to others in the village by cooking meals for them and trying to tempt the appetite of anyone who was not well. At Christmas anyone who might be on their own was collected and brought to our house for Christmas lunch.

“Mum won countless prizes for her baking and her homemade wine and for many years was involved with Village Flower Festival where she was famous for her cream scones. She also loved gardening and co-hosted numerous garden parties on our lawn,” recalls Alex. “As children Mum created entertainment for us with bike rides, picnics, fishing, camping in the garden and taking the bus to see her aunties. There wasn’t much money around but no shortage of love and good home cooking.”

Widowed at 55, Irene got herself the job of assistant cook in the Flore school canteen. She carried on fundraising for the local scouts and was treasurer for the next 20 years earning special recognition with scouting awards for merit and long service. She remained a member of the village’s Flower Club, Heritage Society and Garden Society.

Says Alex, “After a lifetime of rushing around for others Mum dropped down a few gears as her mobility decreased. Those who cared for her at home and during her stays at Longlands Specialist Centre and Danetre Hospital, all regarded her with warm affection and several described her as a ‘real lady’. That’s who she was, not just a faceless frail old woman in a hospital bed whose death is merely a statistic. She had given so much to others but when her own time of need came she was let down. She deserved better. She is sadly missed.”


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