Medical Negligence Lawyers At Irwin Mitchell Secure Family Settlement
The widow of a man, who waited six hours for an ambulance after his meningitis was diagnosed as flu like symptoms by a paramedic, has urged an NHS Trust to learn lessons after it agreed an undisclosed settlement over his death.
Mthuthuzeli Mpongwana, from Bristol, died when his wife Lisa Armitage took the heart-wrenching decision to switch off his life-support machine following the advice of doctors. The 38-year-old, known as Tutu, had suffered a massive stroke shortly after arriving at Bristol Royal Infirmary two days earlier.
Following his death in 2015, Lisa instructed specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care her husband received at the hands of South West Ambulance Service NHS Trust.
An inquest in 2016 concluded that Tutu’s death was “contributed to by failure to take appropriate action in the face of an obvious need.”
The Ambulance Trust had denied liability for the father-of-three’s death but has now agreed an out of court settlement with Tutu’s family which will help secure the future of his children. The settlement has been approved by the County Court sitting in Bristol.
Expert OpinionThe last three years have been incredibly difficult for Lisa and her family as they attempted to come to terms with Tutu’s death.
“It has also always been our opinion that there was a clear failure by the Ambulance Service to administer antibiotics that would start to treat Tutu’s meningitis and by a paramedic to call for back up.
“Lisa had always hoped that following the inquest, which was also critical of Tutu’s care, the Ambulance Service would accept liability for his death
“We are pleased that the Trust has now agreed to an out of court settlement, allowing Lisa and her family to try and focus on the future the best they can.” Julie Lewis - Partner
Lisa, aged 30, added: “To see my husband lying helplessly in a hospital bed as his life slipped away before me is something I will never forget. The decision to turn off Tutu’s life-support will live with me forever.
“The pain and loss our family continues to suffer remains as strong as ever three years on. This has been made worse by having to fight the Ambulance Service for answers.
“Although it is too late for my family I just hope that the Ambulance Service learns lessons from Tutu’s death.
“It’s also vital that other families who suspect someone may have meningitis don’t take no for an answer and seek urgent medical attention. It is well known that the faster you act the more likely treatment will be successful."
Tutu was at home in Bedminster on January 5, 2015, when he complained to Lisa, that he had a headache and was unable to look at his phone because it was too bright.
Lisa rang the NHS non-emergency number, 111, at 10.30pm, and was told by the operator an ambulance vehicle would be sent to take Tutu to hospital as they were concerned he had meningitis.
Her husband rapidly deteriorated, started vomiting, struggled to stand up, his skin turned grey and he became delirious and confused.
Following a wait of three hours, a paramedic arrived at the scene in a rapid response vehicle. He failed to act on the seriousness of the potential meningitis symptoms and downgraded the ambulance response to the lowest priority. This meant that no ambulance arrived at their home to take them to the Bristol Royal Infirmary for a further three hours, nearly six hours after the initial 111 call.
Tutu was taken straight to the resuscitation room as his eyes were bulging and he had lost control of his arms and hands. He then suffered a stroke and his brain began to swell. He was put on life support but could not be saved. He died on January 7, 2015.
Following the inquest into his death at Avon Coroner’s Court, HM Coroner Maria Voisin recorded a narrative conclusion and said: “Mr Mpongwana died from natural causes contributed to by failure to take appropriate action in the face of an obvious need that failure arose at around 1:50am when a P1 (Priority One) back up should have requested and benzylpenicillin should have been administered.”
Irwin Mitchell argued that there was a failure on behalf of the attending paramedic to administer benzylpenicillin and to request an appropriate back-up ambulance. There was a failure to give any consideration to the fact that Tutu was HIV positive and a failure in all the circumstances to provide him with a reasonable standard of treatment and care.
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