Graphic Designer Wins Battle For Justice Against NHS Trust

Lawyers Secure Settlement After Errors Leave Man’s Finger Permanently Disfigured

20.05.2013

By Helen MacGregor

A graphic designer who feared he would never work again after medical staff failed to recognise he had broken his middle finger in a cycling accident says he hopes lessons have been learnt to prevent anyone else going through the same ordeal.

James Symonds, from Bristol, was told by doctors at the Royal Gwent Hospital that his collar bone was fractured and he had a mild head injury but his fingers were definitely not broken after falling off his bicycle in a park in Newport in July 2011.

But after spending nearly a month in agony and struggling to bend or move his right middle finger, doctors at Bristol Royal Infirmary found it was in fact fractured and displaced and it needed surgery as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Despite having a metal pin inserted to try and realign the bone, further X-rays showed it hadn’t worked and the 35-year-old was given the devastating news that it was unlikely his finger would ever fully heal, jeopardising his job as a graphic designer which requires him to draw.

James instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to help find answers about whether more could have been done to diagnose the broken bone and is speaking out for the first time after Aneurin Bevan Health Board agreed to pay a five-figure settlement for his ongoing physiotherapy, loss of earnings, pain and suffering.

Irwin Mitchell found that staff at the Royal Gwent Hospital A&E department failed to investigate the potential injury to James’ middle finger and the radiology department 
X-Rayed the top and side of his ring finger but only X-rayed the top of his middle finger meaning the fracture below went unnoticed.

Andrew Bowman, a specialist lawyer from the firm’s Bristol office who represents James, said: “James suffered nasty injuries after falling off his bike and believed he was getting the best possible scans and treatment at hospital.

“Sadly, this was not the case and despite his middle finger being swollen and causing him a significant amount of pain, staff in two departments failed to fully assess the damage.

“This resulted in the injury becoming far worse than it would have been if it was treated straight away and he has now been told that he will never regain full movement in his middle finger – something which was completely avoidable had they carried out the correct x-rays initially.”

James has now also been told that he may even need the bones fusing in future which would leave his finger permanently in the claw position meaning he would struggle with day to day tasks and his current creative work.

Bowman added: “It is crucial that staff learn from this and improvements are made in staff training to recognise the importance of thorough scans to treat injuries as quickly and as safely as possible.”

James said: “I was in absolute agony with my finger but trusted I was in the best possible care. When things didn’t improve after a couple of weeks I knew there must be something seriously wrong. It was a struggle to do my work and carry out simple tasks around the house such as getting dressed and cooking.

“It became so bad that I took myself to A&E at Bristol Royal Infirmary and after seeing a physiotherapist they recognised immediately that there was serious damage and a full suite of X-rays confirmed that.

“I was rushed for surgery the next day to try and realign my finger but sadly it didn’t work and I’ve now been told it’s unlikely to improve further and I’m at risk of arthritis.

“It makes me very angry to think that if doctors had recognised the injury straight away when they should have done, it is highly likely my finger could have been fixed and I wouldn’t have to worry about what the future will hold.

“I just hope lesson have been learnt from the errors made in my care to prevent anyone else going through the same ordeal.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Medical Negligence claims