Law firm Irwin Mitchell has secured an out-of-court settlement to help pay for the rehabilitation of a man left disabled after Chesterfield Royal Hospital took 18 months to diagnose and treat his brain tumour despite several visits to the hospital.
Karl Hutchinson, 21, from North Wingfield in Chesterfield, was just 11 when he was first admitted to Chesterfield Royal Hospital suffering from neck pain, vomiting and sensitivity to light. A series of mistakes meant the hospital failed to diagnose his tumour until 18 months later, causing a delay in treatment which ultimately led to severe brain injuries.
During this period a school nurse had raised concerns about his symptoms being in line with that of a brain tumour but the hospital did not act.
Mr Hutchinson now suffers from significant injuries affecting his brain, which have left him unable to work or live alone, and he regularly suffers memory loss and has ongoing problems with mobility and balance.
Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell, representing the family, have demanded that the NHS learns from the critical, systemic failings of this case to ensure this does not happen again in future.
Jayne Hutchinson, Karl’s mother, said: “The hospital’s failure to diagnose Karl’s condition correctly has resulted in permanent serious brain damage, and he will now need help for the rest of his life.
“We are very disappointed with the level of care Karl received after he left the hospital. No amount of money will repair the damage that has already been done but at least now we can put it towards the cost of some of the physio and rehabilitation that Karl needs.
“We are pleased that the case has now been brought to a close. It’s going to be a long and intensive rehabilitation process and we are determined to put the pain of the past ten years behind us and begin to move on with our lives. I hope the hospital can learn from this case so that no one else has to go through what we have.
“I also hope that our case can highlight the fact that the aftercare offered after an injury such as this needs to be investigated. There are people who are struggling because they haven’t got the money to help pay for crucial treatments.”
Rachel Roach, medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: “There were several times in this case where things should have been done differently and it is important that the NHS addresses this to ensure it never happens again. Patient safety should be the number one priority for the NHS.
“Although the settlement has been agreed, no amount of money can soothe the pain suffered by Karl and his family. The damages will go towards paying for the intensive rehabilitation process and care that Karl now needs to help get his life back on track.”
Karl was initially referred to Chesterfield General Hospital by his GP in May 1999, and although he was held overnight, he was discharged the following day without diagnosis.
He was re-admitted with the same complaints a week later but was again discharged the following day, this time with an outpatients’ appointment as the doctor thought he was suffering from a viral infection.
An administrative error meant the Hutchinsons were not informed of the date of Karl’s appointment, and the hospital failed to follow up his non-attendance, despite the fact that the school nurse had raised concerns that his behaviour and school performance had deteriorated in line with symptoms of a brain tumour.
Karl was again re-admitted to hospital in October 2000 after his symptoms and behaviour continued to deteriorate, but the records of his previous visits were incomplete and he was not given a proper neurological examination.
When he was finally granted a CT scan in November 2000, more than 18 months after his GP’s initial referral, the results revealed he was suffering from a 7cm diameter brain tumour and hydrocephalus – cerebral fluid on the brain.
He was immediately transferred to Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, where he underwent emergency surgery to remove the tumour. Although the surgery was successful, the tumour had already caused considerable and irreparable damage to his brain.