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Patient receives settlement following GPs’ failure to diagnose appendicitis

A man from London has received a five-figure settlement from a GP who failed to identify his appendicitis and refer him for the necessary hospital investigations, causing him months of physical and psychological suffering.  

Posted on 18 January 2023

The patient, who we will call Chris, called 111 on 24 May 2018 as he was experiencing abdominal pains. They gave a possible diagnosis of viral infection or appendicitis and advised that he go to St Mary’s Hospital Urgent Care Centre to see an emergency GP.
Chris saw a GP at the Hospital that night and explained his symptoms including nausea and abdominal pains for which he was prescribed high dose co-codamol.
On 30 May Chris went to Garway Medical Practice as a temporary patient while he was away from home visiting his mother-in-law as he was still experiencing abdominal cramps on and off. The GP he saw concluded that Chris was getting better, despite the severity of his symptoms which had caused him to seek out an emergency appointment while away from home.
The GP failed to suspect acute appendicitis or refer for Chris to hospital for investigation and treatment of symptoms of appendicitis, and Chris recalls being told that he was likely suffering from a gastric bug.

A day later, on 31 May, Chris sought advice from a doctor at his own GP surgery, Elm Park Surgery, where blood tests were taken. The doctor reviewed the results on 1 June which showed various raised markers suggestive of an acute inflammation and infection but did not take any further action. The doctor waited until after the weekend to contact Chris on 4 June, which was not safe in view of Chris’ ongoing symptoms and results.
The doctor left a message for Chris telling him to pick up his blood test form but did not discuss the results and did not ask for an update regarding his symptoms.

Further blood tests were taken, and the results were received on 5 June, and showed similar results, i.e. that Chris had acute inflammation and infection.

 If the doctor had properly evaluated and interpreted Chris’ blood test results within the context of his previous GP notes and referred him for a CT scan on 1 June, it was likely that he would have been diagnosed with a perforated appendix which would have been removed by key hole surgery on 2 June, leading to an uncomplicated recovery. 

Instead, Chris saw another GP on 8 June who noted the two-week history of abdominal pain. Chris’ pulse was at 104 bpm and his temperature was 39 degrees. The GP arranged for urgent hospital review to rule out appendicitis.

Chris therefore went to the A&E department at the Princess Royal University Hospital where he was diagnosed with suspected appendicitis and admitted to a surgical ward. He underwent a CT scan which showed an inflamed appendix, He was treated with intravenous antibiotics and remained in hospital for 5 days.

As a result of the GP’s delay in referring the Claimant to hospital on 30 May, Chris developed an established appendicular inflammatory mass. By the time it was diagnosed, open surgery would have been too risky. Chris was denied the opportunity to have surgical treatment immediately and instead had to undergo conservative treatment with antibiotics to resolve the inflammation with a view to having his appendix surgically removed 5 months later.

Chris suffered avoidable symptoms in the intervening period until his appendix was finally removed by key hole surgery on 18 October 2018.

Following these events, Chris has suffered from an erratic bowel habit as well as hearing issues and tinnitus. He also suffered psychologically and had to be prescribed anti-depressant medication and has undergone counselling.

The case was settled for a five-figure sum in November 2022.

Following the settlement, Chris said:

“I’m incredibly grateful to Angharad and her team at Leigh Day who were extremely patient, insuring I was carefully guided through each stage of legal process. It gave me the confidence to pursue a claim and meant I could access the treatment I needed to recover from my traumatic experiences.”

Angharad Vaughan, partner in the Leigh Day medical negligence team who represented Chris, said:
“Chris suffered unnecessarily for months due to the failure of his GP to suspect appendicitis and refer him to hospital for urgent review and treatment. While nothing can turn back the clock, I hope that the financial settlement will help him access the treatment he needs and enable him to move on with his life.”

Angharad Vaughan
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