Grandmother Forced To Have Knee Replacement Says ‘Hospital Error Put My Life On Hold For A Year’

Medical Law Expert Calls On NHS Trust To Show Lessons Have Been Learnt


By Helen MacGregor

A woman forced to endure a full knee replacement and months of agony after doctors made a ‘significant error’  in her care is calling for lessons learnt to be made public in a bid to prevent anyone else going though the same ordeal.

Sophie* has had to give up her active lifestyle after she contracted a serious infection following surgery on her right knee. The injury has left her with a permanently weakened joint and unable to enjoy any of the hobbies she used to such as tennis and skiing.

Medical law experts from Irwin Mitchell representing the 72-year-old say an investigation into her injuries later revealed that steroids given to reduce swelling following the operation further weakened her immune system, creating an environment that led to dangerous bacteria, Klebsiella, developing. 

Had she not been given the steroids she could have made a full recovery within 7-10 days, but instead she spent an additional 28 days in hospital and nine months in agony before needing a full knee replacement in February 2011 because her knee had been damaged beyond repair.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust admitted responsibility for her poor after care at the end of last year and Irwin Mitchell has now secured Sophie a five-figure settlement to cover her pain, suffering, past care and loss of earnings as an independent caterer for local parties.

Sara Burns, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office who represented Sophie in her battle for justice, said: “My client was an active lady whose social life was heavily influenced by keeping fit.

“Sadly she suffered months of unnecessary agony and then needed a complete knee replacement as a result of hospital staff making a significant error in her after care.

“Doctors should have been aware that by giving her steroids, it made her even more at risk of developing serious infection which would delay her recovery significantly.

“We welcome the admission of responsibility but are keen to see proof that lessons have been learnt through further training for staff in arthroscopic after care to ensure the same mistake cannot be made again.”

Following the initial arthroscopic surgery – a procedure where the cartilage in her knee is flushed out - Sophie needed three further procedures to ‘wash out’ the infection in her knee. She was then told her only option was a full knee transplant because the cartilage had been permanently damaged, but that she would have to wait a year until doctors could be sure the infection had completely gone.

Sophie, a grandmother-of-eight said: “My knee had been painful for some time following a skiing injury so doctors decided to flush out the cartilage which was aggravating things. I had undergone this procedure before so knew it was routine and was told I would be back on my feet after a couple of weeks.

“I was given steroid injections and then sent home later in the day but it quickly became apparent something was wrong as the pain in my knee was getting worse.

“I was admitted back to hospital within a week and then had to stay a full 28 days once the Klebsiella infection had been diagnosed so staff could ensure it didn’t spread further by regularly flushing out my knee.

“Even once I returned home, I had trouble moving round the house and couldn’t do any of the social activities I used to enjoy such as tennis and horse riding because of the agony I was in. It was so frustrating and hard not to feel depressed and angry.

“Things have improved since I had the knee replacement but I feel like my life was put on hold for a year because of the mistake that was made and sadly I will never play tennis again.

“The admission and settlement does provide some justice for what I have been put through but to be able to move forward with my life fully I would like reassurance that steps have been taken to ensure no one else will go through the same ordeal.”

*Sophie is not the client’s real name

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Surgery claims