£160,000 Compensation for Missed Diagnosis of Dislocated Shoulder

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Kate McCue

Medical Negligence Associate Solicitor

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*Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality

Overview of Client Situation

Our client, Adam, had a fall when getting out of his car, which saw him damage his left shoulder. After the incident, Adam immediately attended the A&E department at Watford General Hospital for an X-ray. X-rays of the front and side view of the shoulder were taken and reviewed by a radiographer, who advised that he sustained a fracture from the accident. Soon after, Adam was dressed and sent home with a sling and analgesia for the pain.

A follow-up appointment was arranged with the fracture clinic at Hemel Hempstead Hospital and Adam was then seen by an orthopaedic registrar who took two more X-rays of his shoulder, again from the front and side view; for an overall review of his injury.

The clinician treating our client advised him that the fracture had started to heal and gave him some basic exercises to perform, in the form of physical therapy. Though Adam abided by everything advised by the physician, on his follow up appointment, the orthopaedic registrar was surprised that Adam had not regained full movement in his left shoulder. Arm abduction is a common test that physicians do when checking any form of limb injury, and by surprise, Adam could not raise his arm vertically.

After no luck with physical therapy or other advice from the physician, Adam was recommended to have a cortisone injection. These injections are to help alleviate pain, swelling or irritation of a joint in an exact area of your body, but are mostly injected into joints – like the shoulder, elbow or ankle.

With a long wait list on the NHS for these steroid injections due to delays, Adam decided to have the treatment privately at the BMI Chiltern Hospital. Upon seeking private help, our client was given two X-rays, including one taken from behind, and the regular front and side. Shockingly, Adam was advised that he may have a dislocated shoulder, but would need a CT scan to confirm. The CT scan was performed and it confirmed the diagnosis that the private healthcare provider believed he had, and he was then told that he would need surgery.

It became clear that Watford General Hospital had negligently missed the dislocation and had simply treated the fracture, even though the dislocation was visible from the front view X-rays that he had originally. Because of this, it was evident to Adam that he required a medical negligence solicitor, as the A&E Negligence meant that his injury was not just prolonged, but it was worsened in their efforts to fix it. Offering up physical therapy for a severely dislocated shoulder, and stating that a steroid injection was necessary was categorically wrong, and could have led to a severe damage in his arm permanently.

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If you are suffering due to a missed diagnosis, get in touch with our Medical Negligence solicitors on 0808 239 6043 or

How We Helped

Adam was referred to our Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free consultation and legal advice, during which he provided details of what happened. Our Medical Negligence Solicitors reviewed his case, and helped him claim compensation.

To begin the claim, the Medical Negligence team had to obtain his medical records, in order to review all the details and verify his statements. Upon confirmation, we later reached out to the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, who was the original hospital in charge of Adam’s healthcare. All of the initial treatment was conducted there, and we argued that their failure to spot the sign of a dislocation was a breach of the duty of care owed to Adam.

We stated that had our client's first X-rays been reviewed properly by 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 at a much faster rate.

The issue with the missed dislocation meant that Adam was unable to undergo salvage surgery to repair the current shoulder, so it resulted in him needing a full 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, or manual work around the home.

We 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, in order to make a full prediction of his recovery.

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 time frame is based on an artificial shoulder joint lasting 10 years on the average person, therefore it could be a frequent operation, and cause damage along the way. With this, our specialists said that it would lead to a gradual long-term drop in Adam’s overall shoulder function, which could potentially end up to be around 50% of what it is now – which is all taken into account when considering the level of compensation

Along with this artificial joint surgery, it was recommended that Adam undergoes regular lifelong physiotherapy to avoid any stiffness that could result in further disability, therefore his life has been impacted significantly from this medical negligence.

We 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 – this was then compiled in a Schedule of Loss for his total financial loss due to the negligence.

Following our clients complaint, with our guidance, the NHS Resolution team which deals with claims for compensation on behalf of the NHS in England, admitted there was a delay in diagnosing his dislocated shoulder, but argued he would have had some long-term shoulder issues either way. Though they persisted that the injury would have lasting effects regardless of his treatment, we insisted in the case and the NHS Resolution team eventually admitted fault. They agreed that as a result of the missed diagnosis, Adam’s injury needed a far more serious operation, which could have all been prevented, had they not failed to diagnose the dislocation.

What is a Breach of Duty of Care?

The NHS organisation has a duty of care, and it is defined as being the obligation/duty which medical professionals have to provide their patients with a certain standard of care. What this means is that anyone in the trust, whether junior or senior, must ensure that the standard is the same level across the board, and their patients are all treated with the same care. Breach of Duty is when the healthcare provider fails to provide care, which causes the patient injury, suffer any harm, or a complication that could have been prevented if a certain standard of care was provided.

Examples of breach of duty:

  • Incorrect diagnosis
  • Missed diagnosis
  • False information to obtain informed consent
  • Delay in treatment
  • Incorrect treatment
  • Incorrect or lack of testing
  • Surgical errors
  • Delays in referral, or lack of referral

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 that he will have to undergo for the rest of his life. Along with ongoing physical work, Adam will be required to have numerous shoulder replacements if the average 10-year lifespan of an artificial joint is correct, therefore the long lasting effect that this injury had on him will last his lifespan.

Adam still has a good quality of life which has been impacted significantly by the medical negligence that took place. Had the initial dislocation been spotted in a timely manner, he would have made a full recovery.

Let us help you

If you’ve been affected by medical negligence, you could claim compensation. Our specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors can offer you a Free Claims Assessment and help guide you through the process of making a hospital negligence claim.

We’ve recovered hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation for people who have suffered because of medical negligence, along with offering them the specialist care, treatment and rehabilitation they need to start to rebuild their lives.

We understand that taking legal action can be daunting, but we pride ourselves on our trusted, expert advice that’s delivered quickly and clearly. When you come to us, you can expect a personal service tailored to you and your needs. Contact us today on: 0808 239 6043


National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2020). Shoulder replacement: Current concepts and future directions. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery, 15(2), 123-135. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7428700/

Bupa. (2023). Shoulder replacement. Bupa: Muscles, Bones, and Joints. Retrieved from https://www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/muscles-bones-joints/shoulder-replacement

Mayo Clinic. (2023). Shoulder replacement. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/shoulder-replacement/about/pac-20519121

NHS Resolution. (2023). NHS Resolution. Retrieved from https://resolution.nhs.uk/

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. (2020). Duty of Care 2021. Retrieved from https://www.csp.org.uk/system/files/publication_files/Duty%20of%20Care%202021.pdf

UK Parliament, House of Lords Library. (2021). Negligence in the NHS: Liability and Costs. Retrieved from https://lordslibrary.parliament.uk/negligence-in-the-nhs-liability-costs/

Kate McCue

Medical Negligence Associate Solicitor

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Negligence

Kate joined the Clinical Negligence department at Simpson Millar in January 2023 after previously working at Chris Kallis Solicitors in Plymouth. Kate qualified as a solicitor in 2004 and has developed extensive experience in both Personal Injury and Medical Negligence.   

Initially Kate started working as a Defendant Solicitor for firms such as Bond Pearce LLP and DAC Beachcroft Claims Ltd. This has allowed Kate to develop a tactical advantage to her cases, using the experience of how a claim is dealt with from a Defendant’s perspective. 

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