A man in his eighties has been awarded £30,000 in compensation after the negligent care he received following a hip operation at Worthing Hospital led to him developing extensive pressure sores, exposing muscle and bone. As a result, he needed a further operation to address the sores and remained under NHS care for seven months instead of the two months which had been anticipated before the operation. The case, which has been settled by London and South East law firm Penningtons Solicitors LLP, highlights the concerns raised by Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, in her recently published official report on the treatment of elderly patients in England.
Mr Percy Chesson was admitted to Worthing Hospital in February 2010 following a fall at home. He needed orthopaedic treatment, which was successful and promptly undertaken. However, his post-operative care was poor and there was a failure to diagnose and treat pressure sores. By the time a tissue viability nurse saw Mr Chesson, a month after he had been admitted to hospital, his pressure sores were Grade 4, the stage where the sore has suffered a full thickness wound exposing the muscle and bone.
Before his fall, he had been an independent man but the lack of care reduced him to a very weak and frail individual for several months. He remained in hospital for two months and then needed daily visits by district nurses to dress the significant wounds he had sustained.
Once she was aware of Mr Chesson's wounds, the tissue viability nurse instituted a review which identified numerous failings in Mr Chesson's care. Key nursing assessments had not been completed, including nutritional assessments and assessments relating to skin integrity and pressure care. A turnover of agency staff was also identified as a further cause. This affected the continuity of care given to Mr Chesson and other patients within the hospital. Documentation and communication were also poor. Mr Chesson's relatives continually alerted the nurses to their concerns but it was a number of weeks before they were acknowledged. By this stage, Mr Chesson had deteriorated significantly.
The report concluded that his care constituted neglect and that there were systematic problems within the ward which needed to be addressed to ensure that further episodes of neglect were prevented.
Penningtons Solicitors LLP relied on this report to secure an early admission of liability for Mr Chesson. The firm was instructed in April 2010, just after Mr Chesson had been discharged, and reached a settlement in February 2011 for £30,000 together with legal costs. Mr Chesson is relieved that the litigation was not prolonged and that there has been acknowledgment of the poor care he received.
This case highlights the concerns that Miss Abraham identified in her official report which concluded that the NHS is failing to treat elderly patients in England with care, dignity and respect. It also follows the death of a 93 year old woman, Irene Telford, in December 2008, who died after spending two weeks at Worthing Hospital where she received negligent nursing care. At the time, the hospital apologised to the family and promised to hold an investigation.
While Mr Chesson was being treated, his family was told that he was likely to die. Mr Chesson stated: "I hope that the Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow, will realise that my experience is not an isolated one and that this issue needs to be addressed urgently if the elderly are to receive the dignity and respect that they deserve and are entitled to."
Commenting on the case, Grainne Barton of Penningtons' clinical negligence group, who led the claim on behalf of Mr Chesson, said: The care received by Mr Chesson provides yet a further harrowing example of the neglect which many elderly people suffer. Even when his family complained about his treatment, this was not addressed. Mr Chesson had to suffer entirely avoidable pain, indignity and loss of independence and it is worrying to see that this appears to be a widespread problem. The thorough investigation undertaken was appreciated, as was a sensible approach to Mr Chesson's case, but we hope that lessons will be learned and that this won't happen again."