£160,000 Compensation for Missed Diagnosis of Dislocated Shoulder


A Medical Negligence Claim Case Study – Client Situation

Our client fell on to his left shoulder while getting out of his car and went straight to the A&E department at Watford General Hospital. X-rays of the front and side view of the shoulder were taken and reviewed by a radiographer. Our client was advised he had sustained a fracture and he was sent home with a sling and analgesia.

A follow-up appointment was arranged with the fracture clinic at Hemel Hempstead Hospital and our client was seen by an orthopaedic registrar who took 2 more X-rays of his shoulder, again of the front and side view.

The clinician treating our client advised him that the fracture had started to heal and gave him some basic exercises to perform. But at his next appointment, the orthopaedic registrar was surprised that our client hadn’t regained full movement in his left shoulder and that he couldn’t raise his arm vertically.

Eventually, he was advised to have a cortisone injection, but due to delays on the NHS waiting list, he decided to have the treatment privately at BMI Chiltern Hospital. Following 2 X-rays, including one taken from the back, our client was told he may have a dislocated shoulder. A CT scan was carried out which confirmed the diagnosis and he was advised he would need surgery.

It became clear that Watford General Hospital had missed the dislocation and had simply treated the fracture, even though the dislocation was visible even from the front view X-rays.

How We Helped

The man was referred to our Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free consultation and legal advice, during which he provided details of what happened. Solicitor Sarah Holdsworth agreed to help him claim compensation.

Sarah and her team obtained his medical records and reviewed all the details. Sarah then approached West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which was responsible for our client’s initial treatment and argued their failure to spot the signs of a dislocation was a breach of duty of care.

Sarah stated that had our client’s first X-rays been formally reported to a radiographer, any abnormality beyond the fracture may have been spotted, investigated and treated in a timely manner. As a result, he could have expected a return close to normal function in his arm.

However, the fact the dislocation was missed meant he was unable to undergo salvage surgery, which in turn meant he needed a total left shoulder replacement. While the injury hasn’t affected his ability to work or live independently, he does have some weakness in the arm and lingering pain, which increases when he does a physical activity such as gardening.

Sarah arranged for our client to undergo medical assessments by an orthopaedic surgeon, an occupational therapist and a physiotherapist, so the full extent of his injuries and future care needs could be identified.

Our medical experts believe the current level of function and pain in his arm will deteriorate, in which case a revision procedure may be required every 10 years or so. This, they said, would lead to a gradual long-term drop in his overall function, potentially to around 50% of what it is now.

It was recommended he undergo regular lifelong physiotherapy to avoid any stiffness that could result in further disability.

Sarah also calculated the extent of his financial losses, which included his private medical fees, travel expenses, loss of earnings and various miscellaneous expenses, such as dumbbells to assist his physiotherapy at home.

Following a complaint by our client, NHS Resolution, which deals with claims for compensation on behalf of the NHS in England, admitted the delay in diagnosing his dislocated shoulder, but argued he would have had some long-term shoulder issues in any event. However, Sarah pursued the matter and NHS Resolution eventually admitted that as a result of the missed diagnosis, the surgery our client needed was more serious.

The Outcome

Following further and protracted negotiations with West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, our client was awarded a total of £160,000 compensation. This reflected the severity of the medical negligence he had experienced and the financial impact it had on him.

The compensation settlement also took into account the extent of his long-term needs as the function in his arm deteriorates, such as the physiotherapy he will have to undergo for the rest of his life and the further shoulder replacements he will need.

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