May 17, 2017

Court finds NHS Trust negligent in stroke case


Judith Leach, barrister in our Medical Negligence team, successfully brought a case against Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, representing client Julie Robinson. The Court found that the Trust’s negligence resulted in an avoidable stroke which left Mrs. Robinson severely disabled.

During a complex eight-day trial in the High Court, the case was argued on two fronts:

(i) On 8 December 2010, a failure to give Mrs Robinson a single dose of aspirin when she presented to the defendant A&E department with a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or ‘mini stroke’. Hours later, Mrs Robinson had a severe stroke at home leaving her disabled.

(ii) Six weeks earlier, Mrs Robinson was admitted to the same Trust with abdominal pain. On this occasion, there was a failure by medical staff to recognise and/or act upon clear signs of a perforated bowel. During the three week delay in taking Mrs Robinson to theatre she developed an extreme inflammatory response as a result of sepsis. This unchecked sepsis caused an increased level of platelets (a clotting factor in the blood). This then caused her blood to become, in layman’s terms, more ‘sticky’. This in turn led to her stroke.

During her time in hospital, Mrs Robinson was seen by approximately 15 different doctors. Despite frequent blood tests showed increasing levels of sepsis which was not recognised and/or acted upon.

On the first point, The NHS Trust admitted a failure to give aspirin but denied this made any difference.

On the second point the Trust denied liability.

Sadly Mrs. Robinson died before trial due to an unrelated illness. At trial, she received an award of £185,000.

Following the trial, Judith Leach, Barrister and a former ITU sister, said: “This is a classic case of a failure to join up the dots, a poor level of senior medical input and a failure at consultant level to take charge of the coordination of Mrs Robinson’s care. Arguably, it is an all too familiar case of ’too many novice cooks’, poor communication and a failure to act on the worsening blood results. This is particularly tragic as the diagnostic facilities, such as scanning and blood results, were undertaken but their significance was not appreciated nor acted upon. Tests are only as good as the medical staff who interpret them.”

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