At present it is estimated that 4.7 million people in the UK have diabetes, with this number expected to reach 5.5 million by 2030. Diabetes, whether Type 1 or Type 2, is a serious lifelong health condition which needs to be carefully monitored and managed by treating healthcare professionals in order to prevent many, often life-changing, complications from occurring which only serve to impact further on the difficulties individuals experience as a result of their condition. Misdiagnosis, delay in diagnosis, poor care and management, and inadequate care in the community can all lead to avoidable injury. If this happens to you or your loved ones it is vital that you have the best help and support on your side.
Diabetes is a condition which is caused by the presence of too much sugar (glucose) in the blood, resulting from the body either not producing enough insulin or the cells not responding to the insulin properly.
Diabetes generally falls into two main categories:
- Type 1 – where an individual’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Individuals are generally diagnosed when they are children are young adults, and their condition is managed through regular insulin injections or via an insulin pump.
- Type 2 – where an individual’s body does not produce enough insulin, or the their cells do not react to insulin. This is the more common form of diabetes, accounting for approximately 90% of those individuals with diabetes in the UK, and is often developed later in life as a result of lifestyle factors, which can include high sugar intake and being overweight. Other contributory factors can include family and medical history, age and ethnicity. The number of individuals suffering from Type 2 diabetes continues to grow.
Symptoms can include increased thirst and frequent urination, excessive tiredness and irritability, blurred vision and weight loss.
Diabetic patients are specifically susceptible to skin breakdown and ulcers, problems with decreased circulation, and problems with their eyesight – all of which can quickly deteriorate and lead to much more serious problems if not carefully managed. It is therefore of the utmost importance that healthcare professionals regularly monitor diabetic patients, with a number of annual tests and check ups needed to be performed to keep an eye on any changes in a patient’s condition.
Common complications arising from diabetes (with accompanying statistics courtesy of recent research by Diabetes UK), include:
Amputation – 169, on average, performed per week
The development of problems of this nature may not be obvious at first, as often these problems start off smaller and then progress unnoticed until it is too late if left unchecked.
For example, a diabetic patient is more susceptible to skin breakdown and the development of ulcers with the foot being a common area for concern – if diabetic ulcers are not caught and treated at an early stage the individual could end up having to have one or more of their toes amputated, or if the damage done is more advanced they may even have to have their foot or leg amputated.
Vision problems – more than 1,700 individuals per year affected
Diabetic retinopathy, a problem concerning the blood vessels in the retina, is the most common cause of vision loss in diabetic individuals and without regular eye examinations it can often be identified too late. This situation can be avoided with early detection and treatment and a robust program of follow up care.
Kidney failure – at least 10,350 individuals in the UK at present
Diabetic nephropathy, a problem with blood vessels making the kidneys less efficient, is another problem that affects diabetic individuals. As part of a diabetic patient’s monitoring they should have regular blood and urine tests – these assist with early detection and the earlier the problem is detected the more likely the disease is to be treatable.
Strokes – 680, an average, suffered per week
Heart problems – on average 530 heart attacks, and almost 2,000 cases of heart failure per week
Diabetic individuals are said to be twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those without the condition – this is due to the fact that their condition can cause them to develop a problem known as atherosclerosis, a hardening of the blood vessels. As this condition worsens the individual in turn is put at a greater risk of both stroke and heart problems – it is therefore of the utmost importance that if a diabetic individual complains of any symptoms indicative of these conditions that they are admitted to hospital and appropriate tests and treatment are arranged without delay.
Premature death – 500 people per week
A number of the above conditions, if not caught at an early stage, can sadly end up being life threatening – this serves as a stark reminder that health professionals should not take their responsibilities in caring for diabetic individuals for granted as any failings can lead to problems that will only continue to escalate if nothing is done.
That is not to say that the above all occur as a result of any mismanagement of care by health professionals, although this does clearly illustrate the sheer range of problems diabetic patients can develop and when their condition is not managed probably the risk of the above increases dramatically.
Common failures in respect of management
Misdiagnosis, delay in diagnosis, poor care and management, and inadequate care in the community can all lead to avoidable injury where diabetic individuals are concerned. Below we set out example scenarios where it may be appropriate to bring a clinical negligence claim:
It may be that your healthcare professionals fail to recognise the symptoms of diabetes in the first place. If a diagnosis is not made then your treatment to manage your condition cannot be started, nor can it be ensured that your condition is monitored and your various annual diabetic checks arranged.
Delay in diagnosis
Even if the correct diagnosis is eventually reached, with diabetic individuals time is of the essence and each moment wasted in reaching diagnosis can lead to the further deterioration of their condition.
Whether by GPs, Consultants, practice or district nurses, it is of utmost importance that your condition is regularly monitored and any concerns are raised at the earliest opportunity to allow for early investigation and treatment.
Poor care and management
It may be that a problem is identified but not enough is done to treat this – an example would be where a diabetic ulcer develops but is left to worsen, in turn compromising your blood supply and risking the spread of infection and later amputation.
Inadequate care in the community
Diabetic care is not always provided in a hospital or GP setting – for many diabetic patients they receive their care through home visits by district nurses.
Given that patients who require home visits will often be the vulnerable and the elderly, it is important that those that are tending to them are well trained as diabetes is a complicated condition that requires tasks such as measuring blood sugar levels, administering the correct amount of insulin, and monitoring for infections.
If, for example, the district nursing team is understaffed or under-trained this can have a negative impact on care quality, which increases the likelihood of errors occurring.
Making a claim
If the treatment of either you or one of your loved ones has gone wrong we can assist you with making a claim for compensation to cover both the pain and suffering caused, and also for financial losses both past and future which may be incurred. Diabetes by its very nature is a lifelong condition and any worsening of your condition through no fault of your own is likely to have a serious financial impact upon you – recoverable financial losses are therefore likely to include loss of earnings, specialist treatment and equipment, help with care and rehabilitation, and any costs associated with adjustments that may be required to your home.
Your case and the extent of the compensation we will seek will depend very much on the severity of the injury and the effect it is having on your life. No two cases are the same. We will advise you on what you can expect, and keep you informed at all stages.
How long do I have to make a claim?
Usually court proceedings must be issued within three years of the negligent act having occurred. However, in cases concerning the mismanagement of diabetes where the damage done is not always immediately evident, the three year period will instead run from your ‘date of knowledge’, i.e. the first date upon which you can reasonably have been said to have gained the requisite knowledge that damage has been to you.
How long will a claim take?
The length of any claim will depend on the nature and complexity of your case. Generally speaking the more complex and valuable a case, the longer it will take to conclude. It will also depend on the actions of the Defendant Doctor or Hospital Trust – sometimes they will admit liability early on, but frequently either liability or the value of the case will be vigorously fought, increasing the amount of time the case will take to conclude.
The range is between 2 – 5 years for the majority of claims. We pride ourselves on progressing claims to their conclusion in the shortest time possible, whilst maximising the compensation to which you are entitled.
Funding a claim
The vast majority of the cases we undertake are funded by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement (“no win no fee”) – this means that the fees we incur in the investigation of your case will either be recovered from the Defendant in the event of a successful claim, or should the case fail for any reason our fees will be written off and there will be nothing for you to pay.