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Compensation for Botched Bowel Operation in Oldham Hospital

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A straightforward gynaecological procedure involving the removal of an endometrial polyp was botched by surgeons and instead the patient’s uterus was perforated and her small bowel lacerated resulting in faecal contamination of her abdominal cavity, blood poisoning and a gangrenous bowel.

Our client attended the Royal Oldham Hospital, for the procedure which was performed using a blind sponge-holding forceps technique, often common in the NHS.  Her subsequent injuries, a perforated bowel and four lacerations to the small bowel, went unnoticed by the surgeon who thought the tissue she was removing was the polyp, not the patient’s bowel.

The 62-year-old from Oldham developed severe abdominal pain after the operation.  Although initial radiological investigations suggested bowel perforation, she was not taken back to theatre for four days.

By then a further section of her bowel had twisted and become gangrenous.  The leaking faecal matter caused severe blood poisoning, chest pains, vomiting, a high temperature, raised respiratory rate and reduced oxygen.

Our client was in a very poorly state and was only then taken to surgery to resect the affected bowel.  An ileostomy was performed, where the small bowel is diverted to a bag on the outside of her body via a tube.  However, due to swelling it was not possible to close her abdomen and it had to be left open with her bowels in a plastic moist bag.

Two further unsuccessful attempts were made to close the wound and mesh was placed over the defect.  Our client spent 10 days in an induced coma and was transferred to the high dependency unit and the wound left to heal.  A month later she was discharged with an open wound which took five months to scar over.

A year later the ileostomy was reversed but since then she has had ongoing problems with pain, scarring and two further operations to repair a hernia.  Her bowel function is impaired and her whole social life has been restricted.

A shortened bowel has also left her at risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency.  She suffers from periodic bowel obstructions due to adhesions and she has developed gallstones.

In an attempt to prevent further women suffering as she had she turned to Pearson Solicitors and medical negligence Partner, John Pollitt.

Reports from experts in gynaecology, general surgery, plastic surgery, psychology and care were obtained.  The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust admitted a breach of Duty of Care resulting in a £185,000 settlement, some of which our client used to obtain remedial surgery the NHS were reluctant to perform.

Commenting on the case, expert, Mr Pollitt, said:  “This is a case which has significant patient safety repercussions.  The blind forceps procedure does really look illogical but it is widely practised and all too often we see these mistakes.

“It is unsurprising that in this case it gave rise to such serious damage being occasioned,” added Mr Pollitt.  “Is this a case of a cheaper procedure costing the NHS a lot more money in the long term?  I hope to see fewer of these cases as the Trusts up and down the country hopefully learn by their mistakes, but sadly at the cost of women’s safety.”

Speaking after settling her case nearly five years later our client said she was not motivated by compensation, but hoped the medical profession would learn by their mistakes and no other woman would have to suffer the way she had.

Confirming this, her husband added:  “We started this off primarily because of Oldham hospital's denial of responsibility, their insistence that they had acted correctly and their insistence that my wife had accepted the risks which had materialised through no fault of their own.

“Compensation was far from our minds. As it has turned out, the compensation has and will be a life saver for us. Without that settlement our lives would have been an absolute nightmare, I care for my wife, refuse to work away and having it will allow me to cope. I am prevented from making the final financial push to secure the last few plans and provisions for our retirement by Françoise's condition, but the compensation has ameliorated that to a large extent.

“I cannot say that the NHS is particularly good at learning from mistakes like this but I am sure that the consequences of medical negligence claims is a positive force in that respect.  I have had a very limited experience of other solicitors but John’s help has been invaluable and professional.

“He has always held our interests foremost and we have always appreciated that throughout this very stressful time and I cannot thank him enough.”

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

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