The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches has recently settled a claim against Cwm Taf University Local Health Board on behalf of the wife of a man who received poor care prior to his death at the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.
On 26 June 2013, the client's husband had become very unwell, experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath which became worse when lying down, so she called an ambulance for him. He was taken to the Prince Charles Hospital A&E department where he was see by a cardiologist and an A&E consultant. The doctors advised him that he had advanced heart failure but there was a slight indication from a blood test that there was the presence of an infection. There were difficulties in interpreting his chest X-ray, but it did reveal a chest infection. He was prescribed with oral antibiotics and discharged home.
Whilst at home, there was a significant deterioration in his condition. He began falling asleep mid-sentence, slurring his words and shaking violently. During the night he suffered a fall and another ambulance was called. He was taken back to the same A&E department as the previous day.
Upon assessment, the client questioned the doctors as to whether or not a further chest X-ray was required given that her husband’s condition had deteriorated, but the doctors insisted that this was unlikely to show anything different from the previous day. A further blood test was performed and showed significantly elevated infection markers. Despite these warnings, the course of oral antibiotics was continued and there was a significant decline in his condition. Three days after his admission to hospital, the client's husband was informed that he had severe pneumonia. A decision was finally taken to place him on IV antibiotics on the evening of 29 June but, unfortunately, this was too late and he passed away on 1 July 2013.
Penningtons Manches was instructed by the client to investigate her husband’s death and it soon became clear that there were concerns about a failure to commence his course of IV antibiotics sooner rather than later. The expert evidence obtained by the clinical negligence team suggested that, had he been provided with IV antibiotics at the point of his admission to A&E on 27 June 2013, he would have survived.
Liability was not admitted by the trust but it offered to settle the claim at a figure close to the original settlement offer put forward by the client. As she was an elderly lady and was herself suffering from vascular dementia, which had deteriorated part way through the investigation, the case was subsequently issued at court for approval of the settlement.
Emma Beeson, a senior associate in the clinical negligence team who advised on the claim, said: "It has been an extremely long process for our client and her family. Despite raising concerns about the care her husband received leading up to his death, these concerns were never fully addressed during the complaint process and that is the reason she resorted to pursuing a clinical negligence claim.
“I am pleased that we have now been able to conclude this matter and provide our client and her family with some closure following her husband’s death. It is of course hoped that the defendant trust will learn from this incident and ensure that, when a vulnerable patient presents with clear and obvious signs of infection, they are appropriately treated with IV antibiotics as soon as possible."