Manchester lawyer settles claim for man who lost his wife following a Tameside blunder

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After a 5 year legal battle, a man from Ashton-under-Lyne who lost his wife due to medical negligence has accepted a £50,000 settlement from Tameside Hospital but his lawyer says the life of a mother and wife of 14 years should have been worth far more.

Former army sergeant Christopher Bambrough lost his wife Karen after the hospital neglected to follow resuscitation procedures and perform emergency surgery that could have saved her life. She left behind five children and her husband of 14 years.

In November 2004, 42 year old Karen was feeling unwell and visited her GP who diagnosed her with significant weight loss, anorexia and a swollen abdomen. On 10 December she returned with, this time, a very swollen abdomen and severe constipation.

Her condition worsened and on 5 January she was taken in an ambulance to Tameside’s A&E department. When they arrived at Tameside hospital, Karen had a number of symptoms including severe constipation and shortness of breath. But instead of performing emergency surgery to clear a blockage in her intestines, doctors delayed diagnosis until it was too late. Karen’s intestines ruptured and at 2.30am on 6 January 2005, she died.

"Although we were only at the hospital for 25 hours, I was left with a bad feeling about the whole place," said Christopher. "Karen was so poorly but she was treated as if her condition was simply a minor discomfort. Even after 5 years, I still haven’t received an apology from Tameside for taking my wife away."

The Trust has now agreed an out of court settlement of £50,000 without admitting liability. Janet Johnson, Partner at law firm Simpson Millar in Manchester represented Christopher in his claim against the hospital. She said: "With a 6 week history of symptoms, the hospital had a significant amount of information available which should have suggested to them that Karen was seriously ill. She obviously had chronic constipation which can be a very serious condition – in this case even fatal. "

"The last 5 years have been both stressful and emotionally draining for the Banbrough family and I think Chris had almost given up the fight - unable to put the memory of his wife to rest. Coming to terms with the loss of a wife or a mother is difficult in itself without the added strain of having to fight for justice, tooth and nail. "

"Had this case gone to court, I believe the family would have been awarded a more significant amount in compensation but they were understandably desperate for closure and so we accepted the offer. Although you cannot put a price on a human life, surely £50,000 is nowhere near enough for such a massive loss."

"Hospitals must be held to account when they make mistakes – especially when it ends up costing lives – and we are doing our best to guarantee justice is carried out for those who lose out when standards aren’t met."

Christopher was discharged from the army after being shot whilst on duty and has since developed Multiple sclerosis. He depended on Karen to care for him their children and is still struggling to come to terms with her death. The couple’s 5 children are now aged between 17 and 21, including an 18 year old daughter with severe learning difficulties.

"At times I was so distraught that I almost turned my back on the case there and then, and the hospital was just dragging it out for as long as possible. I wanted justice for my wife; I wanted them to acknowledge what they had done. Even though Tameside is my local hospital I will never set foot in there again. In fact, I wouldn’t even take my dog there."

Christopher’s health has begun to suffer and he says the ordeal almost killed him too. "Grieving for Karen while attempting to keep my family together has been a difficult challenge. My family has fallen apart," he said.

The recently released Dr Foster Report named and shamed the 'deadliest hospitals' in the UK and revealed how Tameside Hospital has the 3rd highest mortality rate in the country. "I’m just surprised they are not at number one," Christopher concluded.

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