Court Approves Settlement To Provide For Future Of Four Children Who Lost Their Mum To TB

11.03.2013

A heartbroken grandmother whose daughter died of Tuberculosis has spoken of her five year battle for justice today (11 March) after a hospital trust admitted mistakes were made during her care and agreed a settlement for her grandchildren to whom she has now devoted her life.

Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell representing the family are calling now calling for assurances that more robust training in recognising the symptoms of TB has been put in place after Sherronie Ferguson died of the illness aged 27 in March 2008 after their investigation into her care found significant failings.

Lindsay Tomlinson from the firm said their investigations found that a trainee GP had failed to send her for a chest X-ray to test for the disease despite Sherronie showing classic symptoms, such as a persistent cough and chest pains for at least eight months before her admission which meant that once she did finally receive treatment it was too late.

Sherronie’s mum Beverley, who now has full custody of her four children aged from five to 14, instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to find out if her daughter’s death could have been prevented. She is speaking out after The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust, who employed the GP, agreed to pay an undisclosed settlement to the children to ensure they have financial security until they become adults.

Lindsay Tomlinson from Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “This is an extremely tragic case that has seen four young children left without their mum.

“Tuberculosis is treatable when caught early enough and so, in this day and age, it is unacceptable for a young healthy woman to die from the disease. Sadly what happened to Sherronie is not a one off as we have been asked for help by other families who have lost a loved one to TB.

“We urge the NHS to ensure steps have been taken to increase awareness amongst medical staff of the symptoms of the disease and the importance of early treatment to prevent any further unnecessary deaths.”

Sherronie, who lived in Wolverhampton, first began suffering from a persistent cough and chest pains in August 2007 and was prescribed antibiotics for a chest infection.

Her health rapidly deteriorated and she lost a significant amount of weight.  Her persistent cough continued with a pain in her chest on coughing, yet when she visited a trainee GP at the start of 2008, he failed to arrange a simple chest x-ray despite the length of her symptoms instead putting her symptoms down to muscle pains. 

The Trust who employed the doctor subsequently admitted that this fell below the standard of care to which Sherronie was entitled.

Two months later, at the end of February, she saw a different GP who admitted her to New Cross Hospital immediately. Tests showed she had tuberculosis and treatment started on 5 March but less than five days later she died after coughing up a large amount of blood due to TB.

Beverley, 48, said “When the doctors phoned me to tell me my heart felt like it was being ripped apart. I just couldn’t believe my beautiful daughter was gone. She’s always been so bright and her happiness spread to everyone around her. It just didn’t feel real that I would never see her again.”

“Sherronie was a wonderful mum and dedicated her life to her children. People used to laugh and say she was like a mother duck with her four ducklings always in tow. She absolutely doted on them and did everything she could to provide for them.

“Since she’s gone I have tried every day to provide them with the same level of love and care, but money has been very tight and it has been very difficult.”

Beverley added: “The settlement that has been approved by today means I can now bring up the children comfortably and will have enough money to feed them all, keep the house warm and buy them school uniforms. This year we did not celebrate Christmas at all as money was so tight.

“Nothing can bring Sherronie back, which is what we all want more than anything else, but we can at least begin to move forward and I now have peace of mind that the children will be able to live comfortably with me for the rest of their childhoods.

“I just hope more has been done so that doctors recognise the symptoms of TB sooner. Most people associate the illness with the Victorian era but the death of my daughter shows it is still very real in the 21st Century and it is not acceptable for anyone to die from it.”

Lindsay Tomlinson added: “The last five years have been incredibly difficult for the entire family as they have struggled to rebuild their lives after Sherronie’s unexpected death. Although nothing can turn back the clock, the settlement is the final piece in the family’s battle for justice and I hope it allows them to now look to the future, as well as remember their mum for the woman she was, without questions hanging over them.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise related to fatal claims