A woman left with a life-long disability after failures by Burnley General Hospital medical staff to diagnose a spinal infection said she hopes lessons will be learned.
Her comments were made after expert medical negligence lawyers secured her a settlement that has enabled her to move into an adapted home and will pay for the care and therapy she now requires.
Pauline Hague (51), originally from Burnley, began suffering with back pain in 2008 and was diagnosed with musculoskeletal problems after appointments at Burnley General Hospital.
It was later discovered she had been suffering from an abscess in her spine.
The failure to conduct an x-ray and diagnose the abscess led to serious damage to her spinal cord, which has left her struggling to walk and needing to use a wheelchair. In addition she has been left suffering debilitating chronic pain and will continue to suffer from that for life.
Pauline instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office to investigate the care she received at Burnley General Hospital, which is operated by the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.
The Trust admitted liability for Pauline’s injuries in 2012 and her legal team at Irwin Mitchell secured her interim payments which have allowed her to move into a bungalow that has been specially adapted to meet her specific needs.
Pauline attempted to return to work after undergoing therapy and rehabilitation but the severe pain and disrupted sleep pattern she suffers every day due the injuries to her spinal cord meant she was unable to stay in her role.
The East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has now agreed a fair out-of-court settlement with Pauline, consisting of a lump sum together with annual payments, which will enable her to access the care she will need for the rest of her life.
She will also be able to access the therapies, aids and equipment and accommodation that are all required as a result of the spinal injury she suffered when the infection was not diagnosed.
Jennifer Cawthorne, an expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office, who represented Pauline, said: “The swift and accurate diagnosis of illnesses and infections is absolutely crucial as early treatment can often prevent long-term health complications. Sadly, in Pauline’s case, the spinal infection she was suffering was not spotted by staff at Burnley General Hospital as the correct tests were not carried out promptly at the hospital.
“The injuries she suffered as a result have had a huge impact on her life and she now relies on a wheelchair for mobility. Pauline has been unable to return to work and thankfully we have been able to secure her the funds to enable her to move into a specially adapted bungalow for the additional needs she now has.
“Clearly, what has happened to Pauline illustrates the severe and long-term impact of failures within hospitals and it is important lessons are learned to reduce the risk of these events being repeated in the future.
“Pauline now has the peace of mind that this settlement will help her fund the care, rehabilitation and equipment she needs in her day-to-day life.”
Pauline, who has had to undergo a number of surgical procedures as a result of complications caused by her spinal injury, said: “What has happened to me over the last eight years has completely turned my life upside down. My husband and family have also been very seriously affected and have always tried to support me over the years since this happened. They have had to watch me in severe pain and struggling to walk and I am no longer the person I once was.
“When I started getting back pain in 2008 I never thought it would lead to me needing a wheelchair and unable to work. I feel really let down by Burnley General Hospital and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and believe that had my infection been diagnosed sooner I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in today.
“I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anybody else and I hope by taking legal action against the Trust it will make changes to the way it operates so that other people don’t end up with irreversible injuries.”
Dr Damian Riley, Executive Medical Director at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are very sorry for the experience that Mrs Hague had in 2008. The Trust has accepted responsibility for her injuries with an agreement made by both parties to settle the claim amicably rather than proceed to litigation
“All our staff work extremely hard to ensure that our patients receive safe, personal and effective care.
“Lessons have been learned from the injuries sustained by Mrs Hague in 2008 and our processes have improved greatly with additional training for all staff in our A&E and urgent care centres and additional reporting of x-rays.
“Burnley General Hospital was recently rated as ‘Good’ following an inspection last year by the Care Quality Commission. Following this settlement, we would like to wish Mrs Hague well for the future.”