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Elderly parents

Have you / would you sue the NHS ? sorry long one.

25 replies

nononotmyname · 06/08/2012 10:33

MIL was taken to hospital after a fall. She was assessed as having a urine infection so admitted for treatment but no harm from fall. It's never a quick in and out on a geriatric ward (assessments for returning to independent living etc). After a couple of weeks she acquired an infection following a fall on the ward.

To cut the story short (not drip feeding!) 5 weeks after she was admitted we were told she would not walk again. The first fall in hospital had been followed by others, one of which (they can't say which) had resulted in a fractured spine. x-ray was ordered after assessment for going home failed not after any of the falls!

DH and BIL had visited almost every day through this entire period and had not been told about the falls apart from the first one. MIL is quite uncommunicative as depressed, has start of dementia & was on pain relief anyway. We did tell staff a couple of times she had said she was in pain.

MIL was living in own home with care package & walking with zimmer. Now in care home, lost independence and having to be hoisted into/out of bed, wheelchair etc.

Do you think a reasonable level of care was provided? Would you consider suing the hospital?

OP posts:
Nigglenaggle · 06/08/2012 21:55

I dont think you can know given the information provided. I see this from both sides having had a relative in care for 5years or so before he died and also having worked in a geriatric ward of a hospital. I think you deserve some answers. I think how I would handle it is to arrange a meeting with the ward staff to discuss what happened during the period that your MIL stayed with them. Be questioning but not confrontational and go as a group so you are all there to listen to the answers as its often hard for one person to take in everything which is said. From their answers and their manner dealing with you you should be able to get a better idea about whether this was going to happen anyway or if you should take things further. If they have nothing to hide and you handle it calmly they should be pleased that you want to be reasonable and hear their side of the story. This is how I think it should be handled, and the approach that would make me, as a carer-who-had-done-nothing-wrong, want to be honest and open with a family about what had happened. However, having already taken the yelling and demanding answers/threatening legal action approach, I completely understand your concern, but now that the years have given me perspective I wish Id acted differently.
As far as the x-ray goes I would consider it normal to leave that until a problem was noted, rather than automatically x-ray after a fall, but it does depend on the exact circumstances, which at the moment you dont know.

nononotmyname · 07/08/2012 12:51

Thanks for replying. I'm trying to not give all details as I hope it's not a common occurence out there ! I don't think it was going to happen anyway. Quite a tough old bird in many ways.

DH was called to see the conusultant as soon as the hosp had x-ray results. He was told she was walking when she came here and now she won't again. Sorry we don't know what fall / when. 2 of the falls were when being helped by staff.

We sent a reasonable not ranty letter asking for more details and got a polite fob off reply saying wait for the outcome of our case review. That was 3 months ago and nothing has come since. We haven't threatened them with legal action....yet.

OP posts:
nononotmyname · 07/08/2012 12:53

Did you shout / threaten legal action or did you actually start legal proceedings ?

OP posts:
Nigglenaggle · 07/08/2012 20:00

Just threatened. It was a difficult situation for several reasons Id rather not go into, and in hindsight they probably did as good a job as they were able - its a stressful time for everyone. If its been three months though I think that is adequate time for them to get back to you. Id be annoyed at the lack of reply as much as anything else!

gingeroots · 08/08/2012 23:00

I would persue it - would PALS help ?

Toughasoldboots · 08/08/2012 23:07

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MonsPubis · 08/08/2012 23:11

I am not so sure. What would stop me, if I were in your shoes is that the nhs has so little funds, that if you took them to court and won, that would be even less money in the pot fot anyone elses ops, beds, cancer meds etc.
Just putting a different spin on it.
Otherwise, if I could push this to one side, I would think you def had a case. Tricky one.

Thelobsterswife · 08/08/2012 23:16

I am with mons pubis on this one. That's a sentence I never thought I would write!

Thelobsterswife · 08/08/2012 23:17

Not that I have anything against mons pubis I hasten to add! Just that it sounded funny!

MonsPubis · 08/08/2012 23:29

pmsl - I know its a dreadful name, i actually nc for a laugh the other day because someone did a thread and spoke of their mons pubis, which of course caused much tittering that someone actually used the proper name. And I haven;t been arsed to change back yet!

nononotmyname · 14/08/2012 11:32

Thanks everyone.

We went to PALS before writing the letter. They felt they had done their bit by giving us the name of some departmental manager. Now known to be part of the slow-moving case review team. Chocoloate teapot comes to mind.

What makes it hard is that MIL is not allowed to sit up / sit in a chair without a body brace on and it is so uncomfortable it distresses her or she plain refuses to get up.

OP posts:
MonsPubis · 14/08/2012 11:34

nonotmyname - what would you be actually looking for by sueing out of interest? Are you looking at money, a formal apology or what?

LackingNameChangeInspiration · 14/08/2012 11:38

X-rays aren't standard for every fall, in fact they are rarely deemed worth the exposure and pain of having it done for a fall, their should be an incident form for every fall which will say what action was taken (usually seen by doctor, and relatives informed) so maybe ask to see those and the outcome reports

you should have been called though

nononotmyname · 14/08/2012 13:09

Lacking thanks we might well ask for those.

Mons It's a family matter so there are different opinions on that. But I think understanding of how you can nurse/lift/turn/give pain relief to someone over a significant number of days and not realise something serious is wrong. MIL may be uncommunicative but she's also lucid. There are other details but I don't want to be identifiable.

Just a feeling the whole thing has been gross incompetence followed through by gross insensitivity. eg they told us after the event they had marked her record as DNR but they hadn't raised the topic with MIL or any relative. It might be the right medical decision but the medical team is supposed to take it in consultation.

OP posts:
HecateHarshPants · 14/08/2012 13:14

I did sue the NHS. They nearly killed my son and they left him with a lifelong disability.

Shoulder dystocia and the doctor panicked, screamed and pulled his head so hard that she caused nerve damage.

I sued them for the serious injury they left my son with that will restrict him for his whole life.

I did not, although it was advised by the lawyer, sue them for my personal distress. Which was considerable and lasted for years.

There are times when they should pay for their mistakes.

LackingNameChangeInspiration · 14/08/2012 13:16

"But I think understanding of how you can nurse/lift/turn/give pain relief to someone over a significant number of days and not realise something serious is wrong"

because its not the same nurses every day. I am a care assistant and I work on a different WARD every day, so its not even necessarily the same team of people. When elderly people have UTIs they completely change anyway so a lot of things could have been put down to that.

LackingNameChangeInspiration · 14/08/2012 13:17

(not excusing it BTW, someone should be keeping track of changes, just describing HOW changes can go unnotices, not saying its right!)

Trazzletoes · 14/08/2012 13:29

I don't think it's wrong to sue the NHS - negligence is negligence. I would recommend calling a Solicitor for a quick free consultation on the best way to proceed. They ought to point you in the right direction. iirc, a complaint is usually a necessity before they take any legal steps, but I would expect them to be able to tell you whether it might be worth pursuing in the long run.

LackingNameChangeInspiration · 14/08/2012 13:47

no I don't think its wrong either, as staff we want things to change too, but noone listens to us, money talks and if the issue in your case turns out to be too many bank/agency staff who couldn't notice changes, because the ward is not allowed to cover permanent staff on mat leave for example, then from our point of view we rely on complaints etc as we want it to be better for the patients but our voice doesn't count for as much as yours (or your solicitor)

nononotmyname · 14/08/2012 13:52

Hecate How awful for you and your DS.

Lacking Thanks that's an insight. There were nurses though that even I recognised as the regular faces and who certainly knew who my DH was (thinking about you saying we should have been called - DH & BIL were there almost every day).

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LackingNameChangeInspiration · 14/08/2012 14:00

well bank/agency was just an example. I genuinely think that most NHS staff involved in these kind of things also wish it wasn't so but just are hindered so much from doing a good job. We really are relient on patients and relatives piping up! (we do pipe up but it falls into a black hole!)

Sometimes shift times are made so inflexible that there isn't enough cross over between shifts to do a proper sit down face to face handover where people can pipe up with "oh she wasn't like that last time I was on" but often everyone has to do the same shift pattern and there is no cross over at handover time so we get a recorded handover that was done during the last shift - not very inciteful and doesn't allow for much conversation about the patients

Sometimes the doctors are so overrun that although a request to review a patient post fall is sent out (this is usually done BEFORE informing the family) that by the time they review, a shift or two has changed and calling the relatives has fallen down the to-do list (it shouldn't, but..)

Sometimes its just too many tasks to fit into the day, and they can't come and speak to you when you visit because they're in with someone else who has just fallen

Lots of possible reasons, best starting point is seeing how the incident forms were followed up and asking for the root cause of the falls then taking it from there

good luck

nononotmyname · 14/08/2012 14:10

Lacking How demoralising for you. I think you're right about the forms and root cause. I know there are arguments in favour of keeping someone mobilised but if someone falls more than once you'd think they'd say bed or chair only for a few days. Less speculation and more probing questions of the hospital I feel.

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Thumbwitch · 14/08/2012 14:20

I used to think like monspubis, that if you sued the NHS the money would come out of NHS funding - but it doesn't, they pay massively for insurance against negligence/malpractice/being sued. So now I think if there is reasonable grounds for it, and you don't get satisfaction from the hospital in question, yes, they should be sued.

Nigglenaggle · 16/08/2012 21:20

I think perhaps it shouldn't come down to suing until every opportunity has been given for them to explain to your satisfaction why what happened happened. Everyone can make mistakes under stressful circumstances. But if they aren't listening to your concerns or giving you explanations you accept, then unfortunately they deserve to be sued. :(

Trazzletoes · 16/08/2012 23:03

Niggle you can't sue them until you've exhausted all other options first, fortunately!

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