Grandmother Died After Being Sent Home By Out Of Hours GP Who Failed To Carry Out Simple Tests

Medical Law Experts Call For Further Training To Help Doctors Spot The Symptoms Of Blood Clots


The heartbroken daughter of a grandmother-of-six who died because an out of hours GP failed to carry out simple tests to check for blood clots, despite her showing the ‘tell tale’ symptoms, has slammed the standard of care her mum was given.

Joan Zalensy, from Pulborough, died in January last year aged 75 from Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and a blocked lung vessel. She had visited Dr Peter Morgan, a Harmoni out of hours GP, just two days previously complaining of pain in her legs and shortness of breath.

Desperate for answers about why her previously healthy mum had suddenly died, daughter Susan Stockwood instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell who have now secured an undisclosed settlement from Dr Morgan for their loss.

But Susan said she this was never about the money and her and her three siblings want proof that their mum’s death was not in vain and improvements have been made in staff training to prevent any further tragedies.

It follows an announcement late last year that Harmoni, the largest provider of urgent care and advice, had won 12 contracts to run the new national 111 non-urgent phone line which is scheduled to replace NHS Direct from April.

Lauren Hurney, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s London office representing Joan’s family, said: “As the Harmoni service expands and more people rely on its GPs for their care, staff must show that patient safety is their top priority and that everyone will have access to the same high standards of care expected within NHS services.

“Unfortunately the care Joan was given did not meet those standards and the family have been left devastated by their loss. They understandably wanted answers about why their previously fit and healthy mum was suddenly taken from them.

“Joan was showing classic symptoms of DVT and there is no excuse for any GP not to recognise these and quickly send the patient for the appropriate treatment. It would have been quite easy for Dr Morgan to refer Joan to the medical team within a hospital that could have given the treatment she needed to save her life.”

Ms Hurney added: “Instead she was given a heart scan which came back clear and was sent home being told to return in a couple of days. Sadly, by then, it was too late and her son discovered her lifeless next to her bed on the morning she was due to return to the GP.

“A simple test to her legs would have identified the problem and we hope that this case highlights to all GPs the importance of recognising the symptoms of blood clots and sending the patient for appropriate treatment.”

Susan, 44, said: “Mum was still very independent and cared for my brother Robin. She had stayed with us over Christmas and was her usual bubbly self but when I visited her in the New Year she seemed very unwell and could barely get upstairs because she was so short of breath.

“We contacted the out of hours GP service and an appointment was made for us straight away with one of their GPs who gave Mum a heart scan.

“The results came back fine and he said to come back in a couple of days, but we were surprised he didn’t look at Mum’s legs because she said they were very painful.

“I’ll never forget receiving the phone call from my brother who had found mum collapsed at home. The ambulance service tried to resuscitate her but there was nothing that could be done. As soon as we found out that mum had died from blood clots we knew more could have been done to save her.

“We are so angry that she was just dismissed and not all possible causes of her pain were investigated by the out of hours doctor. It’s completely unacceptable and she deserved so much better.

“No amount of money can turn back the clock and I just hope improvements are made in training out of hours GPs to recognise the symptoms of blood clots so no other family has to suffer the same loss and her death is not completely in vain.”

If you or a loved one have received negligent medical care from your GP you could be entitled to claim compensation. Visit our GP Negligence Claims page for more information.