A mother who developed pressure sores through poor medical care during and after childbirth was able to recover £15,000 in compensation with Truth Legal’s assistance.
Her story is moving – all the more so because this avoidable clinical negligence affected her at such an important and hopeful time of her life.
A catalogue of poor care
Emma,* our client, was an expectant mother, eagerly awaiting the arrival of her child. In the last few weeks of her pregnancy, she was referred to hospital by a community midwife, due to concerns about how heavy she was. However, the hospital doctor considered that no action was needed at that time.
Roughly three weeks later, Emma’s contractions started and, after a few false alarms throughout the day, labour was induced late that evening at around 10pm.
Emma’s son was born the following morning, at about 9.30am, after nearly 12 hours of labour.
Throughout that time and beyond, Emma experienced shocking deficiencies in her care – especially when considering that concerns about her weight had been identified several weeks earlier.
She had been given an epidural injection by an anaesthetist shortly after 11pm. This numbed any sensation in her lower body. As such, Emma was unable to feel the development of any pressure sores herself. And yet, the anaesthetist’s only assessment of her after the epidural, was popping their head around the curtain to ask if she was ok.
Pressure sores can be avoided by regular changes of position, so that no area is kept under constant pressure by the body’s weight. However, Emma was not moved by hospital staff at all from 10pm until 8am – nearly the entire time she was in labour. And when staff eventually did move her, they had to ask Emma’s husband to help them.
It was also around the time that Emma was moved that the first note regarding pressure sores was made in her records. It stated that the relevant pressure areas had been checked and were fine.
An hour later, however – and just 30 minutes before Emma’s son was born – red skin and soreness was recorded on one of Emma’s buttocks.
By about 11am the presence of pressure ulcers was confirmed. Even so, Emma had to wait until 6pm that day until a pressure-relieving mattress could be provided for her, and when it arrived the mattress appeared to be broken.
The effects on Emma
The development of pressure sores led to many immediate and longer-term consequences for Emma. The affected area was sore and painful. She was unable to sit down for about 10 days after she had given birth.
She was also unable to sit for long enough to feed her newborn child and naturally this caused a huge amount of distress.
Her pressure ulcers healed within about a month, but they left a visible scar on her buttock, which Emma was upset and embarrassed about.
She got in touch with Truth Legal for advice on whether she could claim for clinical negligence.
Truth Legal begin a clinical negligence claim
Catherine Reynolds, Head of Personal Injury at Truth Legal, discussed Emma’s case with her and set about preparing a claim against the hospital trust. As the trust is the employer of the nursing staff involved, they can be held responsible for the conduct of their employees.
The basis of the claim against the hospital was that:
- They had failed to identify that Emma was at risk of developing pressure ulcers during her labour, despite being seen weeks before the birth regarding concerns over her weight.
- They did not carry out an assessment of the risks Emma faced after she was given the epidural injection.
- They failed to check Emma’s skin regularly and to reposition her at regular intervals so that pressure ulcers could be avoided.
- Once the existence of a pressure ulcer had been confirmed, the hospital failed to implement an appropriate management plan.
- The facts of Emma’s case indicated that the hospital had failed to adequately train its staff regarding the management of pressure ulcers.
NHS Resolution, the organisation responsible for handling claims against the NHS, immediately accepted that the hospital and its staff had failed in their duty of care towards Emma.
This meant that all that was now required for Emma’s case to be successful was to prove the extent of the harm which she had suffered – both in terms of her injuries and financial losses.
Truth Legal arranged a medical examination with a consultant plastic surgeon, who recommended steroid injections and a surgical procedure to resolve the scarring Emma had suffered. The cost of this prospective treatment was added to Emma’s claim.
NHS Resolution had initially offered to settle Emma’s claim for £2,500. After presenting evidence on Emma’s injuries and losses, and lengthy negotiations, they agreed to increase their offer to £15,000, which Emma was happy to accept.
Have you been the victim of clinical negligence?
If you have been suffered injuries because of medical mistakes or negligent care, you can find out more about making a claim on our clinical negligence page. Or if you would prefer to discuss your situation, please get in contact with us.
*All names have been changed to maintain the confidentiality of our client