Woman with benign brain tumour receives six-figure settlement following delayed diagnosis
A woman who suffered from the delayed diagnosis and removal of a benign brain tumour has received a six-figure settlement from University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust.
Posted on 14 December 2022
The woman, who is now aged 34 and who we will call Hannah, was living with vestibular schwannoma (also known as an acoustic neuroma), a non-cancerous brain tumour, without her knowledge.
The tumour was not picked up until Hannah was 26 years old but, given that vestibular schwannomas grow slowly over some years, it is likely that the tumour had been growing since childhood. There had been an opportunity to diagnose Hannah’s tumour four years earlier, when she was a 22-year-old student and had presented at the ENT department at Bristol Royal Infirmary, with a complaint of right-sided hearing loss.
A nurse practitioner in ENT correctly considered the possibility of a schwannoma and he set this out in his notes. Although he organised an MRI scan to investigate, the nurse failed to communicate the detail behind his findings to Hannah or to her GP. Hannah therefore assumed the scan to be a routine check. So, when the first appointment was offered for an MRI scan was cancelled and Hannah was not given an alternative appointment, as Hannah did not appreciate the urgency or need for the investigation and so was unperturbed by the lack of further follow-up.
As a result, 4 years passed by, and Hannah’s right-sided hearing loss continued. In addition, she suffered from insidious symptoms including dizziness and balance difficulties, but she was unaware of any possibility of any underlying sinister pathology.
Finally, aged 26 Hannah developed vertigo which triggered a referral for ENT opinion by her GP. This led to an MRI scan finally being performed which revealed the large right-sided vestibular schwannoma.
Following a lengthy investigation, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust admitted that there were administration errors which amounted to a negligent failure to inform the referring clinician that the MRI scan had not taken place and, as a result, Hannah was lost to follow-up. There was no dispute that, had a further attempt been made to arrange an MRI scan, the scan would have revealed the schwannoma and therefore it could have been removed sooner.
Following negotiations, Hannah accepted a six-figure sum of damages in compensation. Hannah said:
“The errors and delays in diagnosing my brain tumour has left me with numerous debilitating symptoms affecting the quality of my life. I am pleased however that the Trust admitted to the negligent failings they made and that a settlement could be reached to somewhat make up for the suffering I endured.”
Anna Brothers, clinical negligence specialist and Partner at Leigh Day who represented Hannah, said:
“Hannah’s case highlights the importance of clear communication between clinician and patient. A simple administration error resulted in Hannah being not made aware of the seriousness of her condition and she lives now with the lifelong consequences of delays caused to her treatment. While the settlement cannot undo the mistakes that were made, I hope that lessons have been learned at the Trust and that it will help Hannah going forward.”