An avoidable injury

Mrs Smith

This case highlights the need for nursing staff to carry out proper risk assessments and monitoring for patients, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

Ciaran Harper, medical negligence lawyer

Mr Smith’s wife, of nearly 40 years, was left with a broken elbow after she fell out of her bed when clinicians failed to monitor her during a hospital stay.

Mrs Smith has suffered from epilepsy since childhood, however, didn’t have seizures for many years during her adulthood. In 2009, Mrs Smith suffered from a large seizure and from then on continually suffered approximately one seizure per year. As the seizures were a year apart, her clinicians didn’t consider it necessary to provide treatment or medication.

In October 2014, Mrs Smith suffered an epileptic seizure and was admitted to hospital. As doctors were unable to stop the seizure, she was put in an induced coma and remained in intensive care for around seven to ten days, before being moved to an acute neurology unit.

Whilst under the care of the acute neurology unit, Mrs Smith suffered a fall during the night, injuring her right elbow. She had been trying to get out of bed without assistance and wasn’t being monitored at the time.

Mr Smith went to visit his wife the following day and was informed of his wife’s fall, he noticed she also had a cut above her right eye, and an x-ray confirmed Mrs Smith’s elbow had been broken; therefore it was placed in a cast.

A week later further x-rays showed the bone had not set and Mrs Smith underwent an operation to have metal plates inserted into her elbow joint. Mrs Smith remained in hospital for quite a while as it was deemed unsafe to discharge her until her elbow had healed.

In January 2015, Mrs Smith was discharged home however shortly afterward contracted a chest infection and was admitted back to hospital. She returned home two weeks later only to be re-admitted to hospital after suffering another epileptic seizure.

Mrs Smith was discharged from hospital following the seizure, however, is now unable grip with her right hand and struggles to feed herself. She has been prescribed medication for her seizures but unfortunately no longer has capacity.

Mr Smith acted on behalf of his wife to bring a claim against the hospital for negligence in failing to provide adequate and appropriate care whilst Mrs Smith was in hospital. We successfully gained admission from the Trust that they had failed to adopt a consistent approach in managing Mrs Smith’s risk of falling and Mrs Smith would have avoided falling and therefore wouldn’t have suffered the fracture of her elbow.

The Trust apologised for the shortcomings in the care they provided and in September 2017, we settled Mrs Smith’s case for £14,500. We understand the compensation Mrs Smith has received won’t turn the clock back and change the medical negligence she has suffered however we hope it will help the couple in providing some financial support for the immediate future.

Ciaran Harper, a lawyer within our medical negligence team, handled Mrs Smith’s case and spoke about the importance of patient safety,

This case highlights the need for nursing staff to carry out proper risk assessments and monitoring for patients, especially the elderly and vulnerable. It’s very unfortunate that this wasn’t done in Mrs Smith’s case, and her injury could have been avoided. Nevertheless, the defendant Trust did show a real willingness to make amends here and help get Mrs Smith’s life back on track. We wish her and her husband all the best for the future.

*Disclaimer: Mr and Mrs Smith’s names have been changed in this case study to protect their identity.

Key Case Details

Injury
Mrs Smith was admitted to hospital after having an epileptic seizure. Whilst on an acute neurology ward she suffered a fall during the night, subsequently breaking her elbow. Mrs Smith had been trying to get out of bed without assistance and should have been monitored at the time.
Resolution
We successfully gained admission from the Trust which treated Mrs Smith and they apologised for the shortcomings in the case they provided.
Outcome
Mrs Smith's case settled in September 2017 for £14,500.

Further Reading…

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