NHS Admits Mistakes After Man Needed Entire Leg Amputation After Serious Infection Following Surgery

Irwin Mitchell Secures Settlement From North Bristol NHS Trust

16.09.2015

A father-of-three who has been told he will never walk again as he has had to have his entire left leg amputated and may not be able to have a prosthesis fitted after an infection following hip surgery is speaking out for the first time after the NHS admitted it made mistakes in his care.

Michael Stephenson, from Bristol, began to suffer with pain in his left hip in early 2009 and underwent a hip resurfacing procedure on 20th July that same year at Avon Orthopaedic Centre at Southmead Hospital.

However following the operation, Michael’s wound began to leak and ooze and he was in extreme pain but doctors did not swab his wound until TEN days after his surgery and only gave him antibiotics on 31st July as the wound continued to ooze.

The infection rapidly got worse and spread to his hip bone which developed into a fungal infection resulting in multiple lengthy hospital stays, leaving him unable to walk and in June 2013 the decision was made to amputate his leg up to his pelvis to get rid of the infection.

The 53-year-old instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell who investigated his post-operative care at the Avon Orthopaedic Centre which is run by the North Bristol NHS Trust. The law firm has secured an admission of liability from the NHS Trust that his treatment was negligent and Michael has received an undisclosed settlement to assist with his ongoing care needs and specialist equipment he will need in the future.

North Bristol NHS Trust admitted that they failed to undertake earlier investigations and treatment. In a letter to Irwin Mitchell the NHS Trust’s lawyers wrote “If these steps had been taken, the infection would have been discovered earlier and would have been treated effectively by washout, debridement and antibiotics.

On 24th July 2013, Michael had a transpelvic amputation with removal of the socket and hip. This is an extremely rare procedure which is only usually performed on cancer patients, but he was told it was the only way to get rid of the infection which had spread deep into his joint

Michael now uses a wheelchair and needs assistance with many daily activities such as getting dressed, toileting and washing. His wife Cheryl has looked after him for the past six years but now with the help from the settlement he’s will  able to put in place a team of carers and adapt a bungalow to suit his specific needs.

He was told by medical staff that he would not be able to have a functional prosthesis as the amputation is so high in the pelvis, but he is currently exploring options of a cosmetic prosthesis. 

Expert Opinion
“Medical staff at the Avon Orthopaedic Centre did not recognise the signs of infection early enough and this led to his irreversible injuries, Had they done so, he would have been treated much sooner and this would have promptly cured the infection. Unfortunately, by the time it was spotted it was too late because the infection was so deep-seated that amputation of his left leg was the only option.

“We are pleased North Bristol NHS Trust has admitted that there were issues with Michael’s care as it has allowed us to secure him access to vital funding to help with his future care needs and equipment.

“It is essential that all hospital staff have a greater awareness of the symptoms of post-operative infections and that they follow the correct protocol to ensure any patient displaying those symptoms are thoroughly tested so that they can be treated promptly should they require it.

“The outcome in this case has been extremely difficult for Michael and all of his family who have experienced a dreadful ordeal. We are hopeful that raising awareness of this case will mean that appropriate steps are implemented and lessons learnt so the same mistakes cannot happen again.”
Luke Trevorrow, Associate

Grandfather-of-five, Michael, said: “It has been a long and painful road to where I am now. The pain in my hip started back in 2009 and since my original operation I have spent many months and years in a significant amount of pain. If I had known sooner that I could have had my leg amputated to relieve me of the daily suffering I experienced I would have.

“The amputation has had a huge impact on my life and 16 months on I’m still trying to adjust to a new way of living. My family and especially my wife have been a tower of strength for me. I simply don’t know what I would have done without their love and support. I do struggle with a lot of things and need carers to help with simply things such as going to the toilet, getting dressed, getting out of bed, but I am learning to adapt as best as I can.

“I’ve also developed a number of ailments since including phantom limb pain and a pressure sore which can be very painful at times.

“I used to be fit and well before the pain in my hip, I worked as a chef and used to play cricket twice a week with my brother and go out to restaurants with Cheryl and friends. I also miss being able to do the everyday things that people take for granted like going to the shops, gardening, DIY and decorating.

“I am grateful for the help of my legal team at Irwin Mitchell for helping to secure me a fair settlement for my injuries. With access to these funds, I will be able to put in place a team of carers to help me with my daily needs and take the strain off my wife Cheryl. It has also allowed me to buy and adapt a house which is close to my family and grandchildren and hope that I can soon establish a sense of independence for the first time in six years.”