Penningtons Manches has settled a claim against Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust for a delayed diagnosis of a neck fracture, head injury and rib fractures. This led to a temporary worsening of a client’s neurological condition due to the head injury and the development of pneumonia which resulted in a prolonged recovery period.

The client was in his early eighties when he was injured on a bus when the brakes were suddenly applied due to an incident on the road. He fell to the floor and hit his head. An ambulance was called and he was taken to Maidstone Hospital where he was assessed.

Radiographs of his cervical spine were taken and no fractures were identified. No CT imaging was performed. A senior doctor did not review him. Instead, he was sent home with a course of diazepam and co-codamol.

Over the following three days, the client was in a lot of pain from his neck, head and chest area. He became increasingly uncommunicative. His family became concerned when he stopped responding to questions and was slumped in a chair. He was increasingly confused and had severe head and neck ache.

He was taken by ambulance to Darent Valley Hospital where a full body CT scan revealed a displaced fracture of the neck at C7 and fractures of the right seventh, eighth and ninth ribs. The brain imaging revealed a bilateral subdural haemorrhage.

The client underwent surgery for the subdural haemorrhage and fixation of the neck fracture. He had a prolonged recovery from surgery during which he developed pneumonia.

The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team obtained expert evidence which confirmed that the trust was negligent for failing to perform CT imaging of his head and neck, failing to take a radiograph of his chest, and discharging him prematurely from hospital without these investigations taking place and without a senior review. This resulted in a delayed diagnosis and treatment of his injuries.

Although the delayed diagnosis of the neck fracture could have been catastrophic for the client, he was fortunate that his family acted quickly on his deterioration and the fracture was diagnosed before potentially fatal harm could be caused. As for the delayed diagnosis of the head injury, this resulted in a short-lived worsening of our client’s condition, with increased confusion. The expert evidence was that the delayed diagnosis and treatment of the rib fractures resulted in the development of pneumonia and prolonged his recovery period.

A letter of claim was submitted to the Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and the claim was settled at an early stage after Part 36 negotiations with the NHS Litigation Authority.