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NHS Trust Apologises After Mother’s ‘Avoidable’ Death Following Hysterectomy

Surgeons Failed To Use Best Practice Techniques And Didn’t Spot Errors Until Infection Was ‘Out of Control’


The family of a mother-of-two who died at Liverpool Women’s Hospital after errors during her hysterectomy led to bowel failure have spoken of their relief that lessons will be learned by the NHS Trust responsible for her care.


Valerie Collins, from St Helens, was 62 when she died in January 2012 just over a month after going into hospital for a planned procedure to remove a cyst from her pelvis.


Her family instructed specialist medical lawyers at Irwin Mitchell investigate her care and it was found that the techniques used during her surgery were not best practice and error had led to her bowel being accidentally stitched to her abdomen. There was also a delay in noticing the faults which caused an infection to become out of control leading to her death.


In a letter of apology from Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust staff said they were “deeply sorry” and that the issues “have been discussed with senior staff and reviewed as part of a formal investigation”. The Trust said that all surgeons had been reminded of the correct best practice techniques.


The Trust admitted that the suturing technique adopted by the surgeon not the best practice method and agreed that the “deeply regrettable error led to the untimely death of the deceased”.


Ayse Ince, an expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family said:


Expert Opinion
“This was a tragic case of a mother who went in for a planned procedure and unknowing suffered injuries which then led to her death because of avoidable errors.

“Had the surgeons followed good practice techniques it is likely the errors would not have occurred and she would not have suffered the injury which led to her death. The family was naturally devastated at her death and to find that it could have been prevented is very difficult to take in.

“We are pleased that the NHS Trust has acknowledged their mistakes and taken steps to ensure that this cannot happen again. Patient safety must be the number one priority of the NHS and best practice techniques should be used for a reason.”
Ayse Ince, Associate


Valerie leaves two sons and two grandchildren behind.


Her son, Leighton Glover, from Milton Keynes, said: “When my mother became so ill after her operation we knew something was wrong. It seemed to take a long time for them to understand exactly what was wrong but by then it was too late and she was already too ill.


“We are very disappointed to learn that her death could have been avoided and that the correct techniques were not used by surgeons. You put your trust in the NHS to get things right but sadly my mother was severely let down.


“Although nothing can bring her back, we are relieved that the NHS Trust has apologised and has reminded surgeons of the best techniques to use, which will hopefully prevent other families having to go through a similar ordeal to us.”


Valerie had visited Liverpool Women’s Hospital for a planned hysterectomy on 5 December 2011 because of a cyst on her pelvis. She was then discharged home on 9th December but on 11 December was rushed to hospital by ambulance as she was bleeding too much from the her wounds.


On 12 December 2011 it was diagnosed that her wound was infected and needed urgent treatment. She underwent surgery but during the procedure the surgeon accidentally stitched part of her bowel to the abdomen wall causing the contents of her bowel to leak inside her.


Doctors failed to notice the error and she was discharged again on 17 December before being admitted to Whiston Hospital just a day later as the wound had become severely infected and was leaking faeces, needing several washouts and further treatment.


During the next two weeks Valerie remained critically unwell and was unable to eat and was vomiting but it wasn’t until 18 December 2011 that medical staff realised she had a bowel perforation.


Further treatments and wash outs failed to help as the infection was deemed to be out of control. By early January Valerie was suffering from multi-organ failure and was having trouble breathing and she died on 8 January 2012.

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

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