Medical Law Experts Express Concern Over Whether Lessons Have Been Learnt
By Helen MacGregor
A young mum who was forced to have her kidney removed following mistakes made at THREE different hospitals says she is still waiting for an explanation as to why there were so many errors in her care.
Emma Simmons was left regularly bedridden in agony for a year after the tube between her kidney and bladder became blocked following injury during a routine operation to remove a cyst from her ovary at St Michael’s Hospital in October 2010.
The mum-of-one sought help from doctors at Frenchay Hospital and Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) but ‘inexcusable’ delays in diagnosing the cause of her pain and treating it, despite staff being aware of the known complications with the procedure, meant her kidney deteriorated until it lost all function and she had to have it removed.
The 30-year-old from St Anne’s Park, Bristol, was forced to give up her Open University course in health and social care and struggled to look after for her 12-year-old daughter. Desperate for answers, she instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate if more could have been done to save her kidney.
Investigations commissioned by the firm found that:
• St Michael’s Hospital should have performed more up to date investigations before embarking on the surgery as the last scan had been done some six months earlier and Emma may not have even required the surgery
• Staff at Frenchay Hospital failed to consider the risk of injury following the procedure Emma had recently undergone and although they detected that her kidney was swollen with fluid, they failed to admit her and treat her urgently as was required
• Staff at the BRI continually failed to consider the cause of Emma’s injury and establish drainage of her kidney when it was clear that kidney function was declining and intervention was required. By the time they acted, it was too late to save the kidney.
Irwin Mitchell secured early admissions of liability from University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust for her care at the BRI and North Bristol NHS Trust for her care at Frenchay Hospital, and has now helped to arrange a significant five figure settlement for Emma for the injuries and pain she has suffered.
But Emma says she is still waiting for an explanation as to how there were such major failings at three different hospitals and echoes her lawyers concerns that the same thing could happen again without reassurance from the Trusts that lessons have been learnt.
Natalie Jones, a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office represents Emma. She said: “Emma has been through a horrendous ordeal because of repeated errors by different clinical teams that simply should never have occurred.
“There are questions over whether Emma was properly assessed for the surgery in the first place, but in any event, this type of injury is a known complication of that operation and the doctors should have been alert to it.
“The delays that then followed to get to the bottom of Emma’s pain by staff at Frenchay Hospital are inexcusable and even once she was urgently referred to the BRI after it became clear she had a blockage, staff failed to establish any drainage until the point Emma’s kidney had failed completely.
“Whilst we welcome the admissions of liability and settlement from both trusts, neither have offered any explanation as to how these errors occurred and if practices have been changed. Until this happens, we are left wondering what, if any, lessons have been learnt.”
Emma said: “I had a cyst on my ovary and was told the operation to remove it was routine and I would be up and about again within a couple of weeks.
“But shortly after I returned home I was in absolute agony and I went to the A&E department at the Frenchay as I knew something wasn’t right. There was no sense of urgency and they just referred me back to my GP.
“I was surprised but trusted they knew what they were doing so didn’t question it. The pain was getting worse rather than improving though, and I was forced to give up my university course as I couldn’t concentrate on the work and was regularly bedridden. It was very hard explaining to my daughter that some days I just wasn’t well enough to cook her tea.
“Once the blockage was finally diagnosed I expected doctors would quickly repair the damage and I would be on the road to recovery, but I still had months of hell. When they told me they had to remove my kidney completely I was in absolute shock and then very angry as I knew there must have been more that could have been done.
“I am pleased that my solicitor has secured admissions from the trusts so swiftly and although the money I have been awarded will not undo what has happened, I am relieved I can now move on with my life. It is just a shame that the Trusts have not been so forthcoming with an explanation or reassurance that this won’t happen again.
“The one positive that has come out of my ordeal is that care for patients with a nephrostomy – the tube to drain the kidney - has been improved by further training and guidance leaflets at the BRI as it was apparent in my case that nurses on general wards were not trained or experienced in dealing with this at all.”
Time line of events:
27/10/2010 - Emma had the cyst removed from her ovary at St Michael’s Hospital
20/11/2010 – After multiple visits to her GP due to pain, Emma visited Frenchay Hospital A&E department and explained her symptoms. An ultrasound scan showed her kidney swollen with fluid but she was merely discharged back to her GP to arrange a CT scan
17/02/2011 – Emma undergoes a CT scan and is urgently referred to the gynaecology team at BRI after it reveals a blockage in her kidney
29/02/2011 – an attempt to insert a stent failed and Emma was put on the waiting list for surgical repair to her ureter
04/10/2011 – After pressure from her GP to doctors at the BRI a drain was finally inserted to remove fluid from Emma’s kidney
04/11/2011 – Tests showed no visible function in her kidney
02/12/2011 – Emma’s right kidney was removed
Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to surgery claims