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£1.1m settlement for Leigh Day client

Photo: istock

3 January 2007

Medical blunders seven years ago left Miss A unable to speak or communicate and needing 24-hour care. Her family are delighted that Leigh Day partner Frances Swaine has now achieved a settlement from the West Middlesex University NHS Trust that will be used to pay for her care.

Like thousands of others Miss A suffered from high blood pressure, a condition that was controlled by taking medication prescribed by her GP. The medication she took to control her high blood pressure was a diuretic, which helps the body get rid of excess salt and fluids via the kidneys. Other than suffering from hypertension Miss A was a normal healthy 60-year old.


In February 1988 Miss A was admitted to West Middlesex Hospital suffering from a flu-like virus causing her to vomit. She became dangerously hyponatraemic (the body experiences very low levels of sodium) and started to vomit, then swallowed the vomit causing her to have a fit. The accident and emergency staff at the hospital did not take the second x-ray straightaway after the initial x-ray was lost. Her hyponatraemia was untreated for 24 hours. After Miss A was left alone with just her daughters, her daughter noticed that her mother was deteriorating. She started to shout at the trainee doctor and nurses. Miss A was then assisted and she was admitted to the Intensive Therapy Unit where treatment for her hyponatraemia started. Unfortunately there was a failure by the unit to measure the rate at which the serum sodium was rising with the result that it was allowed to rise at much too fast a rate.


Demyelination of the brain occurred. This is the term used for a loss of myelin, a substance in the white matter of the brain that insulates nerve endings. Myelin helps the nerves receive and interpret messages from the brain at maximum speed. When nerve endings lose this substance they cannot function properly. Miss A has now lost all her ability to communicate.

Understandably Miss A’s family were devastated when this happened. From the moment she was admitted they felt that hospital staff marginalised them and they are highly critical of the treatment that she received, wondering whether the age of their mother affected the way in which she was treated. Miss A’s long-term prognosis is not good, she will not recover the ability to speak or understand communication. However, this substantial settlement will allow her family to ensure she receives the appropriate levels of care in her home surroundings.

For more information please contact Frances Swaine on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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