Man Suffered Heart Attack And Stroke After Doctors Missed Several Opportunities To Diagnose Him

Medical Negligence Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell Investigate His Care

02.12.2015

A man who suffered a heart attack and stroke after doctors failed to diagnose chest pains as a serious heart condition is speaking out for the first time after a judge rules that mistakes were made in his car. 

John Crammond, from Rainham, in Kent, suffered chest pain and other symptoms for years and was diagnosed with indigestion. In 2006, he experienced severe chest pain and was convinced he was having a heart attack. He described feeling like a belt was being tightened around his chest, he could not catch his breath and he believed he was going to die. His wife Sheila went with him to Medway Hospital so he could be assessed.

John was seen by a triage nurse and an ECG was carried out. An A&E doctor looked at the ECG results and decided not to come and see John for himself but said he should go to see an out-of-hours GP at the Same Day Treatment Centre, next to A&E, in three hours’ time. When he did so, that doctor diagnosed John with a gastric problem and discharged him home.

Unknown to John, he actually had a serious heart problem that went undiagnosed and untreated for the next four years.

Following a four day trial at the Royal Courts of Justice, His Honour Judge Forster QC ruled that mistakes were made during John’s attendance at hospital and that his condition could have been diagnosed sooner:

  • If doctors had asked John the appropriate and relevant questions when he was being examined, his risk factors for a heart problem could have been quickly identified;
  • John should have been admitted to hospital and had appropriate testing which would have revealed a cardiac condition;
  • In the circumstances no reasonable A&E doctor would have sent a patient to a Same Day Treatment Centre and doing this was negligent.

The 63-year-old instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care he received at Medway Maritime Hospital which is run by Medway NHS Foundation Trust. An undisclosed settlement has been awarded to John from the Trust.

On 22nd January 2010, John had felt particularly unwell most of the day and then noticed his legs were swollen and phoned his consultant who told him to get to hospital. John was taken to Medway Maritime Hospital where he was examined and diagnosed with heart failure and told that he was having a heart attack. Shortly after being admitted he also suffered a stroke.

He was transferred to Maidstone Hospital for further tests and then taken to Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells where doctors confirmed he had severe coronary disease after suffering from a series of heart attacks in the past which had been left undiagnosed. His heart was by now so badly damaged he was no longer a suitable candidate for heart surgery and so he had a pacemaker fitted. 

Expert Opinion
“When John’s condition was finally diagnosed in 2010 he was in a critical condition and had to have a pacemaker and a defibrillator fitted and also was forced to give up his job as it would put too much strain on his heart.

“There was a missed opportunity for medical staff to diagnose and treat John’s heart condition. The Trust breached their own protocol as to the management of chest pain patients. The A&E doctor should have come to see John himself; had he done so, he would have discovered that John had several risk factors for a cardiac cause to his pain, including high cholesterol and a brother who had had heart bypass surgery at 47.

“It would have been clear that John needed to be admitted to hospital for exploratory tests and examinations to determine the cause of his pain. He should not have been sent away to see a GP who would have been reassured by the fact A&E had not considered John’s condition to be related to his heart. If John had been admitted, his heart condition would have been diagnosed and treatment would have been started, preventing his heart attack and stroke in 2010.

“We are pleased that the judge has highlighted significant failings and the missed opportunities by doctors to diagnose and treat his condition. When John was finally diagnosed in 2010 the damage to his heart was extensive and irreparable. He now needs regular check-ups and daily medication to ensure that his condition remains stable. John was a hardworking self-employed man and has had to give up the job he loved.

“John’s case highlights the importance of taking a full and thorough history from a patient and ensuring a patient is seen by the right medical professional. It highlights the importance of diagnosing medical conditions at the earliest opportunity to prevent significant and sometimes life-threatening damage.”
Louise Forsyth, Associate
John, who has four children and seven grandchildren, said: “Between 2006 and 2010, my life was an absolute misery. I was always unwell, always in pain and always felt like I was constantly complaining about the pain I was in – but no-one seemed to take me seriously or think that my condition was life threatening.

“To discover after all that time in 2010 that I had been experiencing repeated mini heart attacks and also suffered a stroke was difficult to come to terms with. I knew on that day in 2006 that something very serious was happening and I thought I was going to die. They dismissed me as having a gastric problem.

“My heart now has significant damage which cannot be repaired and I have to rely on a pacemaker and defibrillator to regulate my heart rate. One of the most difficult things is giving up my job and the company that I have set up and built for nearly 30 years; I loved my job and worked extremely hard to ensure it was a success. My son Steven has since taken over the business for me.

“I am pleased and relieved that after all this time, the mistakes made by the hospital staff have been highlighted and it is my hope that lessons can be learnt from my ordeal so that no one has to suffer like I did.”

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of hospital negligence, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.