Hospital Error Causes Permanent Deafness For Grandfather Who Can No Longer Socialise

Medical Law Experts Say Trust Must Ensure Same Mistake Cannot Happen Again


By Helen MacGregor

A pensioner left with permanent deafness after he was given double the amount of recommended antibiotics in error, has spoken of his anger at his hospital treatment after lawyers helped him win a battle for justice.

Albert Davenport has lost nearly all the hearing in his right ear and some of the hearing from his left after staff at the Royal United Hospital in Bath mistakenly gave him twice the recommended amount of a drug, which is known to damage hearing if over administered.

The 77-year-old instructed Natalie Jones, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell, in a battle for justice and is speaking out for the first time after the firm secured the client an admission of responsibility from Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, followed by a settlement of £40,000 to fund hearing aids and therapy for his suffering.

Albert was admitted to the Royal United Hospital in Bath in December 2009 with leg pain and swelling following recent treatment for prostate cancer. He was given two doses of Gentamicin, an antibiotic used to treat infections, and a few days later noticed his hearing had suddenly diminished.

But he was only made aware of the cause after he made a complaint about his general treatment at the hospital which revealed that a drug administration error had occurred, probably accounting for his loss of hearing.

The grandfather-of-eight, who previously had a very active social life, has had to give up his trips to the theatre, cinema, dinner with friends and activities with his grandchildren because he is unable to hear well enough to communicate and understand others in group situations.

Natalie Jones, who is based at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, said: "The hearing loss Albert has suffered has had a devastating impact on his life and it has meant his previously active social life has diminished because he’s lost all confidence in social situations.

"Gentamicin is well known to cause hearing problems in high or prolonged doses and there is simply no excuse for Albert to have been over prescribed the drug. This was a basic, completely avoidable error where staff didn’t realise he had already had one dose and we hope Albert’s case has highlighted the Trust’s need to implement systems to prevent it happening again.

"The Trust at first refused to accept liability so we were left with no choice but to issue court proceedings. This eventually prompted an admission of responsibility and settlement for Albert that will help him come to terms with what happened and fund the treatment he needs.

"However, we are keen to see reassurance from the NHS trust that steps have been taken to ensure the same error cannot happen again to protect patient safety in future."

Albert added: "I wasn’t impressed with the way I had been treated generally while in hospital so I made an official complaint. When staff looked into it, they mentioned the drug error as if it was something I knew about.

"When it was explained that I had been given double the dose of a drug that is known to cause deafness, it all fell into place because I’d notice my hearing drop significantly whilst I was in hospital.

"I was very upset and angry that the hospital had tried to brush it under the carpet by not telling me straight away, but also the fact that my hearing is now permanently reduced because of their error. It affects all areas of my life but I’m particularly frustrated at not being able to join in during social occasions with my family and friends.

"I was determined to seek justice and am very relieved that the trust has finally admitted responsibility for its error and my legal team at Irwin Mitchell have managed to secure a fair settlement, which will help with hearing aids and other equipment that I might need.

"Nothing can turn back the clock or make up for what happened but I hope that I can now begin to move forward with my life with help from the hearing aids and therapies.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to medical negligence claims.