Lawyer Calls For Training Review After Junior Doctor Misses Chance To Save Finger

Surgery Delayed By Nine Months After Catalogue Of Medical Errors

27.03.2012

Lawyers acting for a paediatric nurse who had her finger and knuckle amputated after a catalogue of mistakes by medical staff have called for a review of NHS training procedures to help prevent future needless suffering.

46-year-old Claire Heywood sliced the middle finger on her left hand open in April 2007 after a glass lampshade shattered in her New Moston home. She rushed straight to A&E at Royal Oldham hospital as the wound was spurting blood.

But throughout the course of her treatment over a ‘torturous’ four years, Claire was the victim of a series of blunders by medical staff including:

• a junior doctor who failed to diagnose and treat a severed tendon
•  the same doctor failed to conduct an x-ray, despite writing in the records that one had been done
• referral to a clinical specialist occupational therapist instead of an orthopaedic surgeon;
• failure to make a timely referral to an orthopaedic surgeon
• all which could have saved her finger

Following her ordeal, mum of three Claire contacted medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell who have since secured her a five figure out of court settlement from Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust who are responsible for the Royal Oldham Hospital. The settlement has helped recompense Claire for her ordeal including the cost of care she received prior to the operation when she needed help with many day to day tasks she found impossible due to her injury.

Leena Savjani, a medical law specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office who successfully represented Claire in her battle for justice, said: “It is totally unacceptable that a woman in the prime of her career was repeatedly let down by medical professionals who she put her trust in.
 
“The junior doctor who treated Claire did not conduct the basic level of investigations on a heavily bleeding injury on a joint. He also failed to perform an x-ray - despite noting in the records that he had done.

“Had he realised the extent of the damage, a referral would have been made to an orthopaedic surgeon who would have been able to do a primary repair of the damaged tendon in theatre and saved Claire’s finger and knuckle.

“She may then not have had to make the devastating decision almost four years later after yet more failings in her treatment and care to have her finger amputated after it had become clawed to the palm of her hand, leaving her in constant agony and unable to work in her job as a children’s nurse.”

Leena adds: “Although we welcome the fact Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust admitted breach of duty and causation of the amputation, I would urge them to ensure that changes are implemented and that there is constant review and management of junior doctors who are treating patients in A&E so simple mistakes do not happen again.

“The sad fact is Claire’s amputation was entirely avoidable if she had received proper treatment and care.”

In the months after her accident Claire’s worst fears about her injury were realised when she became unable to bend her finger which eventually clawed into her palm causing her crippling pain in her left hand, and preventing her from carrying out daily activities in her job like operating hoists and taking blood samples.

After visiting her GP in July 2007 she was referred for an orthopaedic opinion when she once again became victim to failures in the system as the Royal Oldham Hospital instead gave her an appointment with a clinical specialist occupational therapist in August resulting in further delays as the therapist said she needed urgent surgery and assessment by a orthopaedic surgeon.

Despite an urgent referral from her GP, Claire was not seen at the Royal Oldham Hospital until two months later (some six months after her original injury) when an Orthopaedic surgeon said she would require a two-stage tendon graft which had to be delayed as she needed to undergo a prolonged period of physiotherapy before she was fit for the operation.

Claire finally underwent excruciating surgery in January 2008 when she had a rod inserted into her finger – more than nine months after her original injury. But there were complications and she suffered a severe infection in her finger and also developed CRPS (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome), eventually requiring further surgery to remove the rod that had been inserted.
 
She then underwent substantial hand therapy to help manage her pain which proved unsuccessful until she was left with the choice to live in constant pain or undergo amputation. She made the traumatic decision to undergo a ray amputation – the removal of the entire finger and knuckle bone - in January last year.

Commenting on her ordeal Claire, who is now back in full time work as her job as a children’s nurse at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital said: “I was in such extreme pain for so long, it was absolutely torturous. In the end I felt an amputation was the only option left to me as it my situation had become so unbearable and was impacting on my home and working life.

“I couldn’t do simple things like wash my hair,  cooking and cleaning and felt completely deskilled at work as I couldn’t do all the tasks my job required.

“But it was still the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life, especially as I work with children in my job as a nurse I didn’t want them to be scared by sight of my injured finger.”

She adds: “For me this was never about the money, nothing can make up for the hell I’ve gone through and we can’t turn back the clock but I hope that the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust will learn serious lessons from my ordeal and put things right to make sure this type of error does not occur again.

“To know that if I’d been given the proper care I would not have had to go through a torturous four years is a difficult thought to live with.”

If you've experienced negligent treatment from your doctor you might be entitled to compensation. Visit our Doctor Negligence Claims page for more information.