The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team has successfully negotiated an out of court settlement following Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust’s admission that its negligent failure to treat 70 year old Crawley resident Mrs Iris Smith for tuberculosis led to her tragic death on 2 September 2012. 

Mrs Smith had been admitted to East Surrey Hospital on two separate occasions in the months leading up to her death. She presented with complaints of abdominal pain, chest pain and respiratory problems. During her first admission, abnormalities were identified on a CT scan of her chest but tuberculosis medication was not commenced. Following her second admission to the hospital on 2 August 2012, Mrs Smith’s condition remained undiagnosed and she died of miliary tuberculosis when still an in-patient on 2 September 2012.

At the inquest into her death on 18 September 2013, Assistant Surrey Coroner Dr Karen Henderson said that the delay in diagnosing and treating Mrs Smith’s tuberculosis had lowered her chances of survival and that treatment was given too late. However, the assistant coroner found that the failure to diagnose and treat Mrs Smith’s tuberculosis earlier was not due to neglect. 

Despite the findings of the assistant coroner, the family believed that, if Mrs Smith’s tuberculosis had been identified and treated sooner, she would have survived. They instructed Penningtons Manches LLP to pursue a clinical negligence claim against Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. 

The defendant trust admitted that, on several occasions during Mrs Smith’s treatment, there was a failure to consider tuberculosis and commence treatment immediately. The trust acknowledged that, had Mrs Smith received anti-tuberculosis treatment at any time on or before 15 August 2012, just weeks prior to her death, she would have survived. 

The family received a formal written apology from the trust’s chief executive in which he acknowledged that the care Mrs Smith received “fell below that which she was entitled to expect.” 

Helen Hammond, one of the Penningtons Manches lawyers handling the case, said: “We are extremely pleased to conclude this claim for the family and reach a settlement with the defendant. Mrs Smith’s pain and suffering prior to her death were extremely distressing for both her and her family. Mr Smith’s compensation will never replace his wife or take away the pain he and his family have suffered but it will hopefully now allow them to finally mourn the loss of a very much loved wife, mother and grandmother.”