Medical Negligence Claim for Delayed Cauda Equina Diagnosis

Author:
Kay Barnes
Partner, Medical Negligence Solicitor
Date:
17/03/2021

Compensation pays for Treatment and Ground Floor Accommodation 

We helped a lady in her late 60s claim compensation after medical mistakes led to her being left with serious mobility problems and a loss of bladder and bowel function.

JP, a woman in her late 60s who had a history of spinal problems, went to see her GP with symptoms of intermittent sciatica down her left side.

She was referred to an orthopaedic consultant at hospital, and the GP warned that she may be developing cauda equina.

Unfortunately, it was nearly two months before JP was properly followed up and an MRI scan undertaken, which the hospital had said was urgently needed.

Her health deteriorated dramatically, and after being admitted to the hospital’s A&E department with serious pains in her lower back, right hip and leg, she was diagnosed with cauda equina.

The mistakes made with her treatment left her with lasting health problems, including:

      • Impaired mobility
      • Sensory loss
      • Bladder and bowel problems
      • Psychological issues

These symptoms had a profound impact on her life. For example, she started struggling with climbing stairs and found it hard to walk other than for very short distances without resting.

JP also needed lots of extra care and assistance from her daughter, and couldn't look after her young granddaughter any more.

Her condition also meant her home wasn't suitable for her needs, as the only toilet was upstairs, forcing a move to ground floor accommodation.

Due to these ongoing problems, she needed access to specialist treatment including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and bladder function testing.

How We Helped

JP contacted our expert Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free claims assessment, as she felt many of her problems could have been avoided had the delays in her treatment not happened.

We felt she had a strong case and agreed to help her claim compensation, so she could access the care, support and rehabilitation she badly needed, and recoup expenses such as the cost of moving to a new and more suitable home.

We approached the hospital Trust responsible for her care with the details of her claim, stating that after JP’s doctor warned of the possibility of cauda equina, the hospital failed to arrange for her to be seen quickly, when she should have been seen urgently that day or the following day.

With proper care, she would have been given an urgent MRI scan, which would have revealed the presence of substantial compromise to the cauda equina, which required urgent surgical decompression.

We argued that if this had happened, it would have avoided the worsening of her symptoms over the next few months, avoided severe and irrevocable damage to her spinal cord, and preserved her continence and mobility. This would have left her with no or very modest impairments.

We arranged for JP to be assessed by various independent medical specialists, including a consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeon, a urologist, a psychologist, a care/occupational therapy expert and a physiotherapist.

These experts each compiled reports detailing the extent of JP’s injuries, which helped us identify her care and therapy needs, the costs of which were included as part of her claim.

We also assessed the financial impact of JP’s injury, including the costs that came with moving house, travelling to medical appointments, accessing care, and paying for other essentials such as sanitary towels, which she now has to use regularly.

While initially the hospital trust acknowledged a delay in diagnosing her cauda equina and undertaking decompression, they didn’t accept that these errors caused her subsequent health problems.

A robust stance was taken on JP’s behalf and after examination by the Trust expert, the Trust eventually admitted that her mobility problems were a consequence of the delayed diagnosis and treatment, though not her long-term bowel and urological problems.

The Outcome

Following negotiations with the hospital Trust, JP was offered £315,000 in compensation, which she accepted.

Despite the dispute over whether the Trust’s negligence caused her ongoing incontinence, JP was keen to avoid lengthy legal proceedings and a Court case, so was happy to settle for this amount.

The settlement reflected her injuries and losses, and some litigation risk in relation to that part of her case which was contested, and to the value of the claim.

The agreed amount also means she can access specialist aids, equipment and services, as well as treatment including physiotherapy, occupational therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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