Posted by Ali Cloak, Partner
Ali Cloak acts for family bereaved by avoidable sepsis death
In October 2018, our client Mr C attended the Emergency Department of the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in Lancashire, having called an ambulance after he woke up with slurred speech.
On arrival at the hospital the triage nurse assessed Mr C and noted he had tachycardia (fast heart rate), tachypnoea (rapid breathing), hypotension (low blood pressure) and hypoxia (low blood oxygen); all signs of sepsis. He had an Early Warning Score of 10 so plans were made for him to be referred to Critical Care, but unfortunately he went into cardiac arrest before this transfer took place. He was stabilised after the cardiac arrest but, ultimately, died of his injuries the next day.
The case for a medical negligence claim
As part of their own internal investigations, the Trust acknowledged a number of failures in the standard of care provided to Mr C but had not expressly accepted that these failures caused or contributed to Mr C’s death. The family strongly felt the poor care was linked to his death, which is why the family sought assistance from us.
Mr C was just 45 at the time of his death. He had previously acted as carer for his mother, who had physical health conditions. His mother instructed Royds Withy king to find answers about how he came to die at the hospital and for specialist advice about the coroner’s inquest.
Inquests specialist Ali Cloak represented the family at a coroner’s inquest and in the claim which followed.
“The family instructed us initially to support them through the coroner’s inquest. During this process we were able to obtain copies of additional records and other information which had not been forthcoming initially from the Trust. We also arranged for key witnesses to be called to the hearing so that questions could be asked of them directly in court. It was incredibly important for the family to hear from these people about what had gone wrong”
A number of failures in care were identified through the inquest, including:
- failure to recognise Mr C was not responding to treatment;
- failure to commence proactive fluid therapy;
- failure to perform arterial blood gases promptly;
- failure to refer Mr C to Critical Care promptly;
- failure on the part of a nurse to escalate her concerns about Mr C’s deterioration to a senior nurse or consultant.
The coroner ultimately concluded that there had been a delay in referring Mr C to the Critical Care Unit when he showed signs of deterioration, and that this delay meant he was deprived of the opportunity for treatment which could have saved his life.
Following the inquest, Ali supported the family in bringing a claim against the defendant Hospital Trust and a financial settlement was reached shortly after the inquest in order to compensate the family.
“There is clear guidance in place in the form of the Sepsis Six Pathway and this was not followed by the Trust in this case, which had catastrophic consequences. The strict time limits in place were not adhered to and certain interventions, when they were eventually performed, were not performed as rigorously as they should have been.
Mr C was otherwise a fit and healthy man, with decades of life ahead of him. The evidence supports the fact his death would have been avoided if the hospital staff had followed their own internal guidance in responding to Mr C’s deterioration. With early treatment, sepsis is easily treatable for most patients so it is especially tragic he did not receive the right treatment despite being in the hospital at the time.
We fully support the work of the UK Sepsis Trust and their work to raise awareness of sepsis and to support those affected by Sepsis – you can find out more on their website”.
The family commented:
“I must admit that I shed a few tears…if the hospital had done what it should have, he would still be with us today. We are very grateful to you and your team for all the work you have done for us. Thank you once again for resolving this so professionally.”
If you have lost someone close to you as a result of negligent treatment of sepsis, and want to find out more about the inquest process, please contact our specialist team today.
0800 923 2080 Email us