020 7650 1200

Doctor Talking To Patient

Family settles claim with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust over death of University of Newcastle professor, Philip Lowe

The family of University of Newcastle professor, Philip Lowe OBE, have settled a legal claim against Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust following his death aged 69 in February 2020.

Posted on 11 June 2024

The Trust admitted liability for Professor Lowe’s death and paid a settlement to his widow.
Professor Lowe, founder of Newcastle University’s Centre for Rural Economy, died from a perforated bowel following treatment for sigmoid volvulus (a twisted bowel) after he was transferred between Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital (NSECH) in Cramlington and North Tyneside General Hospital (NTGH).
An inquest in 2021 concluded that a mistaken diagnosis and missed opportunity for treatment directly contributed to his death. 
Professor Lowe’s family believed the “hub and spoke” model of NHS care, under which he was moved between the two hospitals, delayed treatment fatally. 
The coroner said that, if decompression of the sigmoid volvulus had happened sooner, the perforation of the bowel and Professor Lowe’s death would probably have been prevented. 
Professor Lowe, an academic respected across Europe for his work in the field of agricultural science, had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010 but lived independently with his wife of 48 years. On 13 February, 2020, he was admitted to NSECH and diagnosed with a twisted bowel, and on 14 February underwent a decompression procedure to untwist the bowel. He was then transferred to NTGH to recover. 
However, after the decompression, the sigmoid volvulus diagnosis was mistakenly changed to a much less serious condition called “pseudo obstruction” in his notes. 
On 16 February, following urgent concerns raised by his wife, Professor Lowe was transferred back to NSECH, but a repeat decompression procedure was postponed until the following morning.  
Overnight, the seriousness of his condition became clear and a second emergency decompression procedure at 3am proved to be too late – Professor Lowe had already suffered a perforated bowel and died at 7.30am on 17 February, with his wife at his bedside.  
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust conducted an investigation and found that the wrong diagnosis in Professor Lowe’s notes delayed his treatment when he was returned to NSECH because staff believed he had a non-urgent bowel condition. They also found a lack of note-keeping in Professor Lowe’s records, no routine endoscopy services on a Sunday, inadequate consultant ‘ownership’, no colorectal consultant involvement in Professor Lowe’s care and, a lack of understanding of the distinction between pseudo-obstruction and volvulus. 
Professor Lowe’s family asked clinical negligence solicitor Rebecca Ridgeon at law firm Leigh Day to represent them at an inquest into Professor Lowe’s death and thereafter to pursue a civil action against Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust. 
At the inquest, the Coroner concluded that Professor Lowe “died due to a perforated sigmoid colon to which the mistaken diagnosis and missed opportunity for an earlier procedure directly contributed” and, in the civil action, the Trust admitted legal liability for causing Professor Lowe’s death.

The claim has now settled. 
Professor Lowe’s daughter, Sylvia Ninkovic said: 
“We believe that, if our dad had not been transferred between Cramlington and North Tyneside hospitals, or mum’s concerns about his deteriorating condition had been listened to, then he would have received appropriate care and would still be alive today. We are very grateful to Leigh Day for their support exposing the miscommunication, mistakes and confusion that seemed to be caused by the ‘hub and spoke’ model of NHS care between these two hospitals – helping go some way to right this wrong  and avoid it happening to other families.  We add our voices to the support for Martha’s Rule – giving patients and their families a right to seek a second opinion if they feel their concerns about a patient’s decline are being ignored.”
Leigh Day solicitor Rebecca Ridgeon, who represents the family, said: 
“Three years after the inquest into Professor Lowe’s death laid bare the errors in his treatment and made clear that his death was preventable, I am so pleased that a settlement of the civil action has finally been reached, after a lengthy litigation process. No settlement sum will ever adequately compensate Professor Lowe’s family, or any bereaved family, for the avoidable death of their loved one, but I know what has kept Professor Lowe’s family going is their committed belief that the Trust should be held to account and their drive to try to prevent the same errors from happening to someone else in the future.”

Rebecca Ridgeon (1)
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Spinal injury

Rebecca Ridgeon

Rebecca Ridgeon is an associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.

Landing Page
CP Child In Pool

Medical negligence

If you or a loved one have suffered medical negligence our lawyers are here to offer you sensitive support and expert experience gained after representing claimants in this area for more than 35 years. 

News Article
Defocussed Hospital Corridor
Medical negligence Ovarian cancer Cancer

Woman in her 20s developed ovarian cancer due to doctors’ surgery’s failure to arrange follow-up for an ovarian cyst

A woman has received £80,000 compensation in a legal claim against her GP after a benign ovarian cyst was not followed up and then developed into a malignant 30cm tumour.