Settlement After Surgeons Damage Leg During Surgery

Lawyers Call For Improvements At Hospital Trust After Patient Is Left In Such Pain He Can’t Care For Disabled Son

08.01.2013

Specialist medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have secured a five-figure settlement from a Lancashire hospital trust for a self-employed taxi driver left unable to work or care for his disabled son after mistakes were made during his knee replacement operation.

Stewart Clegg, of Hala in Lancaster, was left in agony after surgeons at the Kendal NHS Treatment Centre, failed to notice they had damaged his left thigh bone during routine knee replacement surgery on 18 August 2010.

Mr Clegg says he heard staff at the hospital celebrating completing the surgery in a record time, when in reality surgeons had damaged the fibula which caused it to split when he walked on it after the surgery as he was never warned about the dangers of putting weight on his leg.

The trust also admitted missing a second opportunity to prevent the fracture by failing to look at his post-operative scans at the centre, based at Westmorland General Hospital and run privately by Ramsay Health Care UK but funded by NHS North Lancashire.

Mr Clegg says that when he complained to the NHS about his care his concerns were rejected as a recognised complication.  However during the complaint investigation a surgeon admitted that the Mr Clegg’s complaint was valid but this was not communicated to him.

Irwin Mitchell has now secured a £50,000 settlement for the 64-year-old to help him get access to the intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitation he needs to help him get back on his feet. It will also cover his lost earnings as he was unable to return to work fulltime for 19 months while he endured a further operation to fix the fractured bone and then remove some of the metal work.

During this time, Mr Clegg had to use crutches and a walking frame to hobble about and was unable to help his wife care for their 28-year-old disabled son.

James Thompson, a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office representing Mr Clegg, said: “The last two years have been harrowing and frustrating for Mr Clegg and shows how common operations like knee replacement surgery can go terribly wrong if surgeons are not diligent enough to spot the mistakes they have made.

“In Stewart’s case surgeons significantly weakened the bone in his left leg, which they then failed to spot after the operation because they forgot to check his follow-up x-ray. He had to endure another operation to repair the fracture and a third to remove some of the metal work.

“We hope that NHS North Lancashire has learnt valuable lessons from Mr Clegg’s case to prevent other patients and their families having to endure the same experience as he did.”

Mr Clegg, who has been a taxi driver in Lancaster for 24 years and married for 36 years, first suffered pains in his knee in 2008 and was put on a waiting list for a knee replacement operation.

He said: “The operation has led to so much pain, anguish and upset for me and my family. I knew I wasn’t ready to be discharged after the first operation and I’ll never forget the excruciating pain I felt when my bone snapped.

“I was outside on my patio and I’d only hobbled two or three steps on my crutches when I felt a terrible pain. I fell over and hurt my arm and I could tell my leg had snapped before I’d even hit the floor because it was all twisted.

“I was in agony and didn’t know what to do but thankfully one of my sons came home from work half an hour later and called an ambulance. A surgeon at Royal Lancaster Infirmary later said he couldn’t believe how bad the fracture was and said he was disgusted about how badly the operation had been done.”

In September 2010 Mr Clegg endured another five-hour operation to fix the fractured bone with a nail, which was inserted down the centre of the bone, and four metal screws.

He added: “I went from needing a common operation to having my life turned completely upside down and being in pain all the time. I couldn’t drive my taxi, my wife had to have time off work and my son couldn’t rely on me to help him with the everyday tasks.

“It was upsetting because I felt the injury stopped me from being the head of the family, a good dad and husband. I couldn’t do anything round the house or walk the dog.

 “I hope this shows that whether an operation is to simply replace an old knee or it’s something complicated like open heart surgery, it should be considered just as important because the consequences of an operation that’s gone wrong can have a big impact on people like me and my family.

“I have received excellent care from Lancaster Royal Infirmary and my wife since my injury and wish to thank them and Irwin Mitchell for helping me when I needed it most and getting me back on my feet.  I just wished that NHS North Lancashire had been straight with me when I made my complaint rather than forcing me to pursue a legal claim.  I hope they learn from the mistakes they made with both my care and complaint.”