Background

LM was aged 76 when he suffered a sudden onset of pain at the bottom of his back and into his right hip in June 2011. The pain continued and LM sought treatment from a chiropractor on 3 occasions in July 2011.

The pain however did not subside and LM was referred for an MRI by his GP, this scan was an NHS, not a private scan.  It was carried out in a mobile scanning unit operated by InHealth Group Limited on 27/07/2011.

The Defendant in this case was the consultant radiologist who reported the scan. In her report she noted that there was "no vertebral reduction, fracture, discitis or tumour seen."

LM continued to suffer from pain and was prescribed painkillers by his GP. LM went on a cruise in September 2011. However whilst on the cruise his back pain was so debilitating that he spent most of the trip in bed and was unable to get about the boat except in a wheelchair. Once he had returned home from the cruise he became increasingly disabled and less active.

LM was referred by his GP to a spinal clinic where he was seen in October 2011 and placed on a waiting list for a caudal epidural and facet joint injections to relieve his back pain. He also underwent some physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment.  In November 2011 he began to notice blood in his sputum and was referred by his GP for tests which included a CT chest scan.

The CT chest scan was carried out on 09/12/2011 revealing an apical tumour with right hilar lymphadenopathy. LM was diagnosed as suffering from lung cancer.

LM's case was reviewed at a multidisciplinary team meeting in December 2011. Following this the MRI scan from July 2011 was revisited and it became apparent that D had incorrectly interpreted the MRI scan and that a spinal tumour had been missed.

LM began radiotherapy treatment in December 2011 and chemotherapy treatment in January 2012. However his condition continued to deteriorate and he sadly died on 10/09/2012.         

Medical Evidence

The opinion of an Oncology expert was sought on causation, condition and prognosis and the advice was that the Claimant's life expectancy was not affected by the delay in diagnosis of his cancer.  The only consequence of the delay was to deprive the Claimant of timely access to palliative care.

Legal Proceedings

VM (Administrator of the Estate of LM) sought damages for personal injuries and losses suffered as a result of D's negligence. A Letter of Claim was sent to Inhealth on 26/07/2013, they advised that they owned the scanning equipment but that the radiologists were independent contractors and they referred the letter onto D.

D made contact and advised that she had reported the claim to her medical defence union, the MPS who had advised her that she was not insured for the claim as she had filled in her paper work incorrectly and thus D was personally responsible for the compensation and legal costs.

Of interest, is that the family had sent a letter of complaint to InHealth before instructing Solicitors and InHealth had reviewed the scan and admitted that the Defendant had reported it incorrectly.

Settlement

The claim was settled on a global basis however, a breakdown of the settlement figure is as follows:

General damages: £10,000

Special damages: £1,000

D also agreed to pay C's costs of the case.

Solicitors for the Claimant: Janice Gardner, Russell-Cooke

Solicitors for the Defendant: Harriet Humphrey, Brachers LLP

Solicitors Comments

Of great concern in this case was the fact that the deceased had been referred for NHS treatment by his GP, the professional who carried out that treatment was (un-beknown to the Deceased) not an employee of either the NHS, or InHealth Group.  Furthermore she was un-insured.

The Claimant in this case was fortunate that the Defendant was minded to and had the funds to meet the claim.  However, this kind of sub-contracting out of services puts the individual claimant at great risk.  What if the Defendant had left the country? Refused to engage in the process or been a "woman of straw". What if this had been a high value claim? It seems unlikely that the Defendant would have had the resources to meet it.

It seems to the author that this is an issue of wider public importance.