Mother-Of-Three Dies On Operating Table During Botched Surgery

"Lessons Must Be Learned" Says Law Firm

19.10.2009

A devastated man who lost the love of his life after his partner died on the operating table during a botched routine surgical procedure has spoken out about his family’s ordeal to highlight the errors in her care and to help ensure no-one else has to suffer like they have.

Kevin Jones’s partner of 15 years, Christine Burgess, was transferred to Hope Hospital in Salford for surgery on a prolapsed disc after presenting symptoms of severe back pain and numbness in her leg at the Accident and Emergency department in Macclesfield District General Hospital on May 9 2006.

In what should have been a routine operation to remove the disc hernia, the 51-year-old mother of three’s heart vessels were fatally damaged during the spinal surgery carried out by Mr Jallul, a locum consultant neurosurgeon, on May 11 2006.

The couple had planned to move abroad to France from their home in Macclesfield when they retired, and had already purchased a property.

Mr Jones said: “We had lots of plans for the future, but now there is just a hole in my life. Time hasn’t eased the pain of losing her and we all still think of her every day.

“She was the life and soul of every family gathering and due to the failings of the surgeon she has lost out on those precious moments and the chance to see her grandchildren grow up.

“I wanted people to know what happened to Christine and to bring to light the errors in her surgery to help make sure this doesn’t happen again to anyone else.”

The case was recently settled for an undisclosed sum.

Tessa Hodson, leading clinical negligence specialist at law firm Irwin Mitchell, who represented the family in legal action against Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, says there were serious failings in the care of Mrs Burgess and lessons must be learned from this tragic case.

She said: "Christine's death was an unexpected and tragic loss which has left her family devastated.  Patient safety must be a priority and one of the reasons Irwin Mitchell were instructed to investigate into the treatment provided by Mr Jallul, was to obtain answers as to why, what should have been a straightforward surgical procedure proved to be fatal. 
 
“The response from Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and its representatives, the NHS Litigation Authority, has been extremely disappointing.  Mr Jones attempted to resolve matters on numerous occasions without resorting to Court proceedings but the Trust failed to provide any substantive response until a court case was started. It took in excess of 12 months to reach a settlement, which could have been dealt with much earlier, saving Mr Jones and his family from even more distress.”

The recovery from the operation should have takes just a matter of months and Mrs Burgess would have been able to return to her work as a financial assistant at chemical company, Ciba, in Macclesfield.

Mr Jones said: “Christine had no apprehensions about the operation, she had been reassured she was fit and healthy and it was meant to be just a simple procedure. When we were told that she’d died we were completely devastated. It makes me so angry to think about the failings in her care, but also how we have been treated since by the Trust, we have just not been able to get any answers.

“We are concerned that the case hasn’t been investigated thoroughly by the General Medical Council (GMC) and that this could happen again. Mr Jallul has basically just lit the blue touch paper and we’ve had to suffer the consequences.”
 
Tessa added: “Unfortunately, Mr Jones has also had to cope with what he considers to be an ineffective investigation into Mr Jallul's practise by the GMC.
 
“Mr Jones and his family understandably feel let down and angry at the way in which both the NHS and the GMC have handled what was already a very difficult situation for them.

“Their questions arising from the circumstances of Christine's death have been answered to some extent as a result of investigations into the legal claim brought by Mr Jones. However, the Trust responsible for Mr Jallul, provided nothing by way of answers and the investigation conducted by the GMC appears to be flawed.”