Doctor leaves part of latex glove in patient's windpipe causing permanent damage. 

Background

Mr Williams was admitted to hospital on 12th October 2006 suffering from shortness of breath and lower body swelling.

He had a weight problem.  He was diagnosed with right sided heart failure.  

Sadly his condition deteriorated, he was transferred onto a high dependency unit and then into Intensive Care.  The intensive care consultant performed a tracheotomy (surgical incision into the trachea), to allow him to breathe and this was performed on 18th October 2006.

Mr Williams remained very poorly but slowly recovered and was eventually discharged home on 7th December 2006.  However, on 13th December 2006, he had to go back to A&E because he was finding it difficult to breathe, he was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Department and his doctors discovered that his trachea was badly damaged,  Mr Williams needed another tracheotomy and this was performed on 14th December 2006, in the course of it, the ENT Surgeons found what they thought was a piece of latex glove, the size and shape of a thumb or finger, lodged in the trachea, they sent it to the laboratory to be analysed but did not tell Mr Williams about it.

Again Mr Williams had a stormy recovery but was eventually discharged home in February 2007 with a permanent tracheotomy.

The Hospital Complaint's Process

Mr Williams came to Russell-Cooke in May 2008 after his ENT Consultant told him during an out-patient appointment in April 2008, that he had found a piece of glove lodged in his windpipe.

Mr Williams' complaint led to a "Serious Untoward Incident" investigation being undertaken by the hospital and this was eventually concluded in June 2009. 

The outcome of the enquiry was that the foreign object was probably a piece of latex glove, all of the doctors were criticised for not reporting the incident. 

The Legal Case

Mr Williams was unaware that there was anything amiss with his treatment before seeing his Consultant ENT Surgeon in April 2008.

Further delays with his case were caused by the length of time it took the Trust to investigate.

In clinical negligence cases legal proceedings must be issued at Court within 3 years of the event complained of and therefore a Summons was issued on 14th October 2009. 

The legal proceedings were sent to the Trust in February 2010 and the Trust made an admission of liability in March 2010.  

The Trust also sent Mr Williams a letter of apology in March 2010.

The Trust expressed the desire to explore settlement shortly after service of its Defence.

The Medical Evidence

Mr Williams was examined by a Consultant ENT specialist who advised that he had suffered serious and permanent damage to his trachea and that the tracheotomy was going to be permanent.

The ENT Surgeon also advised that Mr Williams (who had lost his job on account of his injuries) was unable to undertake any work involving heavy lifting and would find it hard to get a job because of his permanent tracheotomy.  

The Defendant's expert (Consultant Physician) argued that Mr Williams' life expectancy and ability to work was greatly compromised by his pre-existing weight and heart problems. 

The Settlement

The figure agreed at was £350,000 and a rough breakdown of the award is as follows:-

Past Loss of Earnings                  £50,000

Past Care                                     £5,000

Future Care                                  £5,000

Future DIY and Gardening              £5,000

Future Loss of Earnings              £235,000

General Damages                        £50,000

TOTAL                                       £350,000

Costs

The Trust also agreed to pay Mr Williams' legal fees. 

Solicitors Comments

This case strikes a "body blow" at the NHS' contention that it now adopts an "open" approach to medical accidents.