Medical Negligence

Surgical Error Claims

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According to data from the Royal College of Surgeons, there are over 4.1 million surgeries performed on the NHS in the UK every year.

That’s a lot of operations and MOST of the time, they all go without a hitch. Unfortunately though, every now and then, that’s not the case as every single procedure – even the most straightforward ones – involve some kind of critical steps where the opportunity for something to go wrong is all too real. Should that be the case, you’ll want to talk to solicitors who know their way round the intricacies of this complex area. That’s where we come in. With our extensive expertise in the field of medical negligence, no one’s better positioned to help you get over your terrible ordeal and start over again. But it’s also not just about being your representative in your compensation claim for us. We are totally invested in our clients and will move heaven and earth to make sure they get the care and attention that is due to them.

Every surgical procedure that takes place carries with it an element of risk. And to list every single area where a surgical error claim might be valid would simply take way too long. So what follows is just a scratch on the surface. However, if you see something here that feels similar to what happened to you, then it’s quite likely that you have a valid case for a compensation claim:


Wrong patient surgery

This might sound hugely improbable but has been known to happen. Due to people not checking notes or facts properly before surgery, or miscommunication between surgeons or poor hospital protocol, there have been instances when the wrong patient has been operated on.


Foreign objects left in the patient’s body

Unfortunately, this is an all too frequent occurrence where surgeons leave scalpels, pads, gauze or clamps inside the bodies of their patients. This can cause extreme pain, severe infections and even death. Not to mention the whole ordeal of the body having to be opened again to remove the offending object.


Incorrect dosage of anaesthesia

Anaesthesia is a very tricky area as the slightest miscalculation or mix-up can result in some serious damage. If too much is administered, the patient may be deprived of oxygen, leading to brain damage and possibly death. If not enough is given, then the patient runs the risk of waking up mid-procedure.


Unnecessary damage to nerves, tissue or muscle during surgery

One tiny slip of a scalpel during an operation can be disastrous. Any unsolicited perforations to your internal organs can lead to pain, infection and, in its worst cases, disability or death.


Failure to effectively stitch/ seal/ dress an open wound

Infections spring up all too easily if your surgical wound hasn’t been attended to properly. In some cases, the stitching has been so ineffective that the wound has split open. This is clearly a case of medical negligence.


Infections associated with contaminated surgical implements

Hygiene is of the utmost importance in any surgical context as your body is most at risk when it is lying opened and exposed on an operating table. If the equipment being used on you at that key moment hasn’t been properly sterilised then infection is very very likely. (This is a separate source of infection to what’s now widely known as hospital-acquired infections which we cover further down this list.)


Wrong site surgery

Believe it or not, the incidence of the wrong part of the body being operated on happens many times every year. This can range from someone having the wrong leg amputated, or a healthy kidney being removed, leaving the diseased one inside the body. Examples like this show how crucial it is that the surgical team are fully informed at all times and that the patient’s notes need to be scrupulously detailed.


Failure to warn/ be aware of the associated risks of a surgical procedure

The Care Quality Commission was set up to ensure that all patients receive the best of care possible under the law. One aspect of this is that a patient must be fully informed of all the risks associated with any procedure. If you’re about to undergo an operation and you haven’t been informed of the risks, then your medical practitioner is in breach of the CQC guidelines.


Death

Any operation that results in the death of the patient is an unarguable case of medical negligence. No one agrees to surgery expecting an outcome like that and, after the grief starts to fade a little, it’s only natural for the family of the deceased to start asking questions. A company like Fletchers Solicitors is ideal to have in your corner at a time like this. Over the years, we’ve dealt with virtually every situation of this nature you can imagine. We fully understand what you’re going through, the emotions you’re feeling, the correct amount of distance to keep at various times, and we’ll keep you informed of any significant developments and make sure that your questions are answered. No amount of money can really compensate for your immeasurable loss but it can go some way to helping you with the practicalities that arise when a loved one dies.


Hospital acquired infections

There’s been a lot in the news over the last few years about infections and bugs being so prevalent in hospitals. Given the amount of traffic in the nation’s hospitals and the number of patients being treated, it’s not altogether unsurprising that infections should be so widespread and while great strides have been made in recent years to combat these, you still run the risk of picking up an infection if you’ve had an operation. Trouble is there are quite a few different infections that can be contracted. Here are the main ones:

  • MRSA This is a bacterial infection and the one that you’ve probably heard the most about. It’s turned out to be resistant to a number of different widely used antibiotics so it’s quite difficult to treat. Meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus is generally carried on the skin or inside the nostrils and throat and it can lead to boils or impetigo. If it occurs where there’s a break in the skin, then the infection could prove life-threatening as it could lead to blood poisoning or endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart). Those most at risk of MRSA are those who have a recent surgical wound, burn or IV drip. Older patients and the more infirm are also quite vulnerable.
  • C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) This belongs to the same bacteria family that causes tetanus. It usually lives in the large intestine. Approximately 5% of the adult population has the bacteria lurking in their system in very low numbers. If it should flare up, the infection will cause diarrhoea and, if not treated properly, possibly death.
  • MSSA Meticillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus is very similar to MRSA and can be just as deadly.
  • E-coli This is a very common bacteria, generally harmless. However, some of the more serious strains can cause dangerous food poisoning which can prove fatal in some instances.
  • Klebsiella This is another form of common bacteria that can cause a number of illnesses including pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Klebsiella can be deadly and, like E-coli, there are signs that the bacteria is mutating into becoming resistant to commonly used antibiotics.

And finally, here are some other examples of surgical errors that crop up from time to time:

  • Deaths resulting from insulin overdoses
  • Failure to fix a problem during surgery
  • Faulty medical equipment or products (think of the recent PIP breast implants scare)
  • Inadequate aftercare resulting in bed sores, blood clots or infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Air bubbles in the blood
  • Mistaking of chest tubes and feeding tubes

Human error is generally at the heart of any surgical error and the cost it leaves on its victims can be devastating. An important factor to bear in mind with any compensation claim in this area is that it can often take years to be resolved. However, if you justifiably feel that you’ve been let down by the health system, then let us take on the fight for you.

There’s a lot of manoeuvring to be done when it comes to surgical error claims. For starters, compensation claims can’t be made if the incident in question happened outside the three year limit. Then there’s the question of liability – no one particularly wants to admit to causing a mistake that has resulted in pain or injury. (Though this should change with the Duty of Candour that’s recently been made law, obligating the NHS to be upfront in their reporting of mistakes and errors.)

This is why you’re best advised to come to us. Over the years, we’ve had ample experience and opportunity to know how to get the best results from any situation. We know all the right experts to consult to back up claims. We know all the ins and outs of the law. And we also know how emotional and hard this journey can be for you, which is why we’ll happily hold your hand every step of the way until we get you the result you seek.


So, are you ready to move forward with your surgical error claim? Then contact us and we’ll start guiding you down the path. Your first consultation will be free. Just pick up the phone and call us on 03300 080 321 or fill out the online form here to get the ball rolling.

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Georgia Briscoe

Georgia Briscoe

Head of Medical Negligence

Georgia is Head of the Medical Negligence department at Fletchers. She has an impressive wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to dealing with Medical Negligence cases and prides herself on developing her team to ensure everyone shares her passion, tenacity and drive to get the best results for our clients.

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