Penningtons Manches LLP has recently settled a claim against Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust for treatment provided by consultant gynaecologist Miss Jayne Cockburn to its client, Surrey grandmother Mrs Jacqueline Elston, aged 52 years.

The treatment provided by Miss Cockburn was for symptoms of urinary frequency, urgency and incontinence. Miss Cockburn advised Mrs Elston that she required surgery which was carried out at the end of July 2010.  Although the urinary symptoms were noted to have improved post-operatively, she developed additional symptoms of pain and tenderness over her scar, including a feeling of recurrent cystitis, her bladder turning over when passing urine, and an irritable bowel.

After further investigations, she was advised that she required a further procedure and she was consented for an injection to a 'trigger spot' on her vaginal wall where an internal suture was possibly aggravating the pain in that area.

During that operation on 31 December 2010, which was carried out under general anaesthetic, Miss Cockburn also proceeded, without Mrs Elston’s consent, to make incisions into the internal vaginal wall. These caused significant bleeding which required her to undergo a further emergency operation to resolve the bleeding on 1 January 2011.  The incisions made without consent could not be justified by reason of necessity or emergency.

Following these procedures, Mrs Elston's bladder and urinary symptoms returned and her bowel symptoms worsened resulting in faecal incontinence. She has required further, significant investigations and treatment which have, unfortunately, failed to fully correct the injury caused.

After investigation, the allegations were put forward in a Letter of Claim to Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the allegations of breach of duty were admitted in the trust’s response.  Specifically, the trust admitted its failure to obtain appropriate consent to perform the incision to the posterior vaginal wall and its failure to perform surgery to the appropriate standard.  

The trust did not respond to the allegations of causation for the faecal incontinence which Mrs Elston alleged was as a result of damage to her pudendal nerve during the incisions made on 31 December 2010. 

As a result of negotiations and Mrs Elston’s desire to settle the claim and move positively forward with her life, the claim was settled in the sum of £50,000.

Mrs Elston said of the settlement: "While I am pleased with the outcome, the money cannot compensate for the fact that I have to live with these problems for the rest of my life.  Although I am pleased with the compensation I have received, I do not want Miss Cockburn to do this to anyone else and for them to suffer what I have been through over the past four years.

“I have already met another person with similar complications who was treated by Miss Cockburn and I understand that my solicitor is now investigating her claim.  I feel very strongly that the trust should have taken earlier steps to investigate the problems that were being reported as a result of treatment provided by Miss Cockburn."

Emma McCheyne of Penningtons Manches LLP said of the settlement: "We were pleased to achieve this settlement for Mrs Elston but she has still not received an apology from the trust.  We understand from the trust's solicitors that they are seeking instructions on whether an apology will be offered.

“It is clear that Miss Cockburn proceeded with surgery which she did not have our client's permission to carry out. According to our independent expert, the incisions made in that location were not recognised as being a treatment for the symptoms of pain from which our client was suffering.  Mrs Elston has endured considerable suffering as a result of Miss Cockburn's actions.  What is particularly frustrating is that this is not the first case involving Miss Cockburn. To our knowledge, the trust has been aware of these issues in Miss Cockburn's care since at least 2011, when we investigated another claim which was settled in January 2012. We are currently investigating other cases. 

“Miss Cockburn was also removed as the named consultant for Mrs Elston and our other clients some time ago.  While we understand that the trust has now carried out a review of other patients who have been treated by Miss Cockburn and made contact with those potentially affected - and that the GMC is now investigating - it is disappointing that it has taken so long to get to this stage."