Compensation after healthcare blunders

The daughter of a 76 year old Wolverhampton pensioner, who died following a catalogue of care errors, has called on both hospital and care home chiefs to learn lessons from their mistakes.

Double amputee, Eileen Lawley died as result of complications following a fall, after she was dropped from a hoist at Woden Resource Centre. She sustained two fractures, one of which was not immediately diagnosed by New Cross Hospital. She also suffered gangrene of her left leg and a blocked bowel. The hospital trust and city council have now paid out a five figure out of court settlement after admitting negligence in her care.

Eileen’s daughter, Karen O’Neill, who is also a trained nurse, said: “I am disgusted at the treatment my Mum received. Because she was elderly and was a double amputee it was as though her life didn’t matter. She was treated with a total lack of care and respect.”

Medical law expert, Ally Taft from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who represented the family, is now calling on both the hospital trust and Wolverhampton Council which ran the care home to review its standards of care for vulnerable elderly patients.

Mrs Lawley, who had a history of medical problems and had undergone two below the knee amputations some years earlier, was admitted to the Woden Resource Centre in Vicarage Road, Wolverhampton in February 2007 for short term respite care.

On several separate occasions, Karen visited the home to find that a special hoist and sling which was used to lift her Mum, was being used incorrectly by care home staff. Despite raising her concerns, the problem continued and on Sunday 18th February 2007 she received a phone call to say her Mum had been taken to New Cross Hospital after falling from the hoist.

Mrs Lawley was treated for facial injuries and a broken femur. She was in terrible pain and although Karen also expressed concern about her Mum’s hip, no further x-rays were taken.

Four weeks later, following a visit to her GP, who noticed her leg was sticking out at an angle; Mrs Lawley underwent further x-rays, which revealed she was also suffering from a shattered hip.

Mrs Lawley’s health continued to deteriorate and she developed gangrene, MRSA and a blocked bowel. Sadly she passed away on 12th June 2007.

An inquest, in April 2009, recorded a narrative verdict and the Coroner highlighted a number of issues regarding the standard of care Mrs Lawley received including the fact that complications following the fall had led to her death.

Following legal action, both Royal Wolverhampton Hospital NHS Trust and Wolverhampton City Council, accepted liability for failures in the management of Mrs Lawley’s care and have now jointly paid out an undisclosed five figure compensation settlement.

Ally Taft, from Irwin Mitchell solicitors, who brought the civil claim on behalf of the family explained: “Mrs Lawley suffered the most terrible indignities because care staff who were supposed to have specialist training in dealing with vulnerable, elderly patients, failed to take account of her special needs. Having suffered the initial fall at the home, the treatment and care she received at the hospital also fell woefully short of the standards expected. The end of her life was unnecessarily painful and traumatic.

“I very much hope that as a result of this tragic case, both the trust and the city council will learn valuable lessons so that other vulnerable, elderly people are cared for appropriately with respect and dignity.”

Karen O’Neill added: “This case was not about financial compensation as no amount of money can turn back the clock and take away the pain and suffering my Mum endured in the final months of her life. I took legal action to find out how Mum came to be so badly let down by the health care professionals who were supposed to be looking after her and to hopefully make sure that no other family has to go through the pain we have suffered.”

Karen O’Neill is also backing National Falls Awareness Week which runs from 21st to 25th June and aims to raise awareness, prevent falls and reduce injuries amongst elderly people.

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