Charles’ story: Enable Law supports widow of man who was wrongly discharged
5 Min Read
National law firm, Enable Law, has settled a case for a widowed claimant whose husband, Charles, was wrongly discharged from hospital resulting in his death.
After suffering with chest pain for four weeks, even when resting, Charles went to see his GP. It was thought he probably had Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS), which is a range of conditions where there is reduced blood flow to the heart. He was taken straight to his local hospital, the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, by ambulance so he could be assessed in its Emergency Department (ED).
While at the ED bloods tests and an x-ray of his chest were taken. An ECG (a simple test that measures the heart’s electrical activity) was also carried out. Charles was discharged and told to a follow up would happen with his GP.
The following day the pain had got worse, and he was suffering with shortness of breath. He was advised to ring 999 by his GP, which he did, and was taken back to hospital. He was assessed again in the ED but was discharged home and told his GP would refer him to the Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic.
Sadly, Charles died five days later before he could be seen at the clinic.
After his death, a post-mortem was carried out which identified the cause of death was a build-up of plaque (fatty deposits) in the arteries that supplied blood to his heart.
An investigation was also carried out by the hospital into the care provided by the ED. This identified a number of concerns and revealed that there had been a rise in Charles’ Troponin levels (which is a protein released into the bloodstream during a heart attack).
This rise should have meant, under the hospital’s own guidelines, that a NSTEMI (a type of heart attack) should have been included as a diagnosis. The investigation admitted that this failing may have contributed to a ‘missed opportunity’ to identify a problem with Charles’ heart.
Support and solutions
Shortly after his death, Charles’ widow approached Enable Law for support.
Once approached, Enable Law worked to assess the case and determine the possible claim Charles’ widow and family could make.
The team at Enable Law (lead by Morgan Lister, Associate) sought advice from independent doctors (a Consultant in Emergency Medicine and a Consultant Cardiologist) who advised that the care Charles received, on both admissions, was negligent.
Along with not including a NSTEMI as a diagnosis, the ED doctors had also;
- Failed to properly examine Charles,
- Failed to correctly calculate the risk of a potential heart attack, and
- Had failed to diagnose him with ACS.
Charles therefore shouldn’t have been discharged home, and he should have instead been admitted to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. If he had been admitted, then he would have received initial treatment there before being referred to a regional centre for a procedure to unblock his arteries – and this would have likely avoided his death.
After the allegations were set out to the hospital, they admitted that the care he received was negligent and Charles should not have been discharged home. It was also admitted that, if he hadn’t been discharged, then he would have received treatment which would have saved his life.
The hospital’s Chief Executive wrote a letter to Charles’ widow as well, to apologise for the failings and set out how lessons would be learnt from his death.
Enable Law’s team then worked closely with Charles’ widow to calculate the compensation connected with his death. To do this the team obtained advice from the independent Consultant Cardiologist, and Consultant Physician, on how long Charles would have likely lived for had he not died when he did.
In situations where someone has died, compensation can be claimed to replace the loss of their income. In most claims the person would have been working before they died, so the money will replace their salary or earnings (as well as their future pension).
In this case Charles’ widow was registered disabled, and so had been unable to work for some time. Charles had also given up work so that he could provide her with the care and support she needed. Both of their incomes therefore came just from state benefits (including Personal Independence Payments, Carers Allowance and Universal Credit).
As state benefits can be very complex, Enable Law got advice from a specialist financial expert. Based on the expert’s advice, the total compensation needed to replace Charles’ income (from his state benefits and state pension) could be calculated and included within the claim.
The hospital disputed the amount of compensation that was claimed, and so mediation was arranged to see if a compromise could be reached. It was eventually agreed that Charles’ widow and children should receive £230,000 in total. This included approximately £80,000 to replace the loss of his state benefits and pension.
When asked about the settlement and case, Morgan Lister Associate at Enable Law commented: “Charles’ death had a massive impact on his family. It meant his sons had to give up their plans for the future so that they could care for their mother. The family also struggled to make ends meet and had to use a food bank for the first time.
Although no amount of money could fix what happened, the compensation was vital for the family. As it included money to employ someone to care for Charles’ widow, her children can now pursue their own plans. Charles’ widow is also now hoping to buy their current council rented property, which will give security for her and the children.”