Family settles damages claim with health trust

The family of a pensioner that brought legal action after he died in hospital has settled a damages claim with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 14 December, 2018, 06:00
Shauna Page, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors.

The cancer patient, who was 79 when he died, was admitted to Wansbeck General Hospital suffering from anaemia, confusion, and the after effects of a stroke.

He fell three times within the space of a week in July 2014, and his cause of death was recorded as a brain injury from the third fall and lymphoma.

The hospital faced multiple accusations of negligence, which included not increasing nursing care on a one-to-one basis and failing to ensure he was in a highly visible part of the ward close to the nurses’ station.

Staff failing to carry out an adequate falls assessment and not taking steps such as placing a sensor pad on his bed to alert them to his movements or providing urine bottles to prevent him needing to leave his bed for the toilet were also part of the claim.

The health trust admitted the first two falls had been negligent and agreed to pay the family, who do not wish to be named, £15,000.

Shauna Page, a specialist medical negligence solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “Instead of receiving appropriate care and support given his vulnerability and frailty, few measures were put in place to protect him.

“There are clear guidelines for nursing and hospital staff in dealing with patients who are at risk of falls that are in place to ensure they don’t suffer further injury in healthcare settings.

“These guidelines were not followed, which is a serious breach of duty of care.

“It is devastating for the family that he went into hospital to receive improved care given his illnesses and never came home because of negligence.”

Dr Mira Doshi, consultant physician and clinical business unit director of medicine and emergency care at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Every day we care for hundreds of frail elderly patients in our hospitals and are committed to minimising the risk of our patients falling where possible.

“In this case, we would like to offer our most sincere condolences to the patient’s family and apologise to them for our part in the first two (of three) falls.

“Although neither resulted in harm to the patient we, nevertheless, admitted a breach of duty and therefore agreed appropriate damages. We did not live up to the high standards we expect of ourselves and are profusely sorry.

“Following the patient’s second fall, a falls care plan and relevant measures were put in place to prevent a re-occurrence. Despite these, the patient had a further fall and it is unlikely that this third fall could have been prevented.

“We have thoroughly investigated this case and shared the learning with our teams to ensure that, as far as possible, we do everything we can to reduce the number of preventable falls in our hospitals.

“Since this case in 2014, we have implemented a range of measures as part of this work – including increased identification and monitoring of at-risk patients and specialist reviews following falls, which have contributed to a significant reduction in the number of falls in our trust.”