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Former prisoner receives six-figure settlement after life-changing misdiagnosis

Settlement awarded to former prisoner following medical negligence claim against consultant surgeon

Posted on 06 March 2018

A former prisoner has received substantial compensation from West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust following the settlement of his claim alleging medical negligence against one of their consultant surgeons.
The former prisoner, known as ‘Mr J’ to protect his anonymity, was an inmate at HMP The Mount, in Hertfordshire, when he started to suffer from painful piles, as well as other symptoms including bleeding, fainting, vomiting and significant loss of body weight.
Due to his symptoms, Mr J was taken from the prison to a local hospital, Watford General, for investigation.  He had a blood test and the results came back abnormal.  However, despite the other symptoms and the abnormal results, the consultant surgeon who saw Mr J at hospital diagnosed him as suffering from piles and discharged him back to prison with pain-relief medication.
Following his return to prison, Mr J’s condition continued to deteriorate, and, in addition to his other symptoms, he became unable to walk without severe pain.  He was eventually taken back Watford General Hospital nine days after he was first seen and subsequently discharged.
These further investigations showed that Mr J was in all probability suffering from Crohn’s Disease, and that he was suffering from a toxic megacolon and a perforated rectum.  These are complications associated with the disease and can result in severe and life-threatening infection.  As a result, he underwent surgery to remove his colon and divert his bodily waste through an opening his in stomach and into a colostomy bag, which he will now need to use for the rest of his life.
Mr J brought a claim for compensation against the NHS trust alleging the care provided to him by the consultant surgeon he had initially seen at the hospital was negligent in that he failed to diagnose and treat his presentation of inflammatory bowel disease.  The claim also detailed that if Mr J had been correctly diagnosed when he first presented at the hospital he could have been treated medically rather than surgically.
Following the commencement of proceedings, the NHS trust agreed to settle Mr J’s medical negligence claim and pay him compensation in respect of the injuries he suffered.  The settlement was for a six figure sum.  Benjamin Burrows, who leads the Prison Law Team at law firm Leigh Day and acted for Mr J in his claim, said:
“Prisoners are entitled to the same standard of medical care as any other member of society.  However, time and again, this standard is not achieved, either because they cannot get access to a doctor or when they do their complaints are dismissed.  Unfortunately, Mr J’s case is an example of this, and the consequences have been life-changing.” 
Mr J was represented by Benjamin Burrows, a solicitor at Leigh Day, and by Alasdair Henderson, a barrister at One Crown Office Row.