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any medical negligence lawyers around?

12 replies

geekgrrl · 05/01/2007 09:10

I'm asking on behalf of our builder - a very nice and conscientious guy - who imo might have a case against our local hospital.
Last summer he sawed half of one of his fingers off and severely damaged the one next to it. He went to A&E straight away and his missing bit of finger arrived correctly packaged 30 minutes later.
The hospital managed to mess him about so much - the usual things of waiting forever, not having a clue what had happened to him etc., etc., that by the time he went into surgery (11 hours later - he'd injured himself in the morning) it was far too late to reattach the limb.
He's only young and it just seems really outrageous that he'll forever more only have half a ring finger on his left hand because the hospital were so bloody slow. He can't use the hand properly as a result, e.g. he can't hold a fistful of nails anymore.

I was wondering whether someone could suggest what he can do/where to go with this.

OP posts:
eemie · 05/01/2007 10:18

He sawed his finger off? Sounds like he was negligent himself.

First step would be to speak to the surgeon who operated on him and ask for an explanation of the delay and what difference it made.

If he doesn't want to approach the surgeon directly he could approach PALS, the patient advice and liaison service. Then, if not satisfied, he could make a formal complaint using the hospital complaints procedure. This would demand a detailed investigation by hospital mangement, for example to see whether all the earlier operating slots were being used for more serious cases than his.

Then, if still not satisfied, he could consult a solicitor. Reattaching a finger is not Grade 1 surgery and outcomes are by no means guaranteed - so the potential damages, if any, would reflect that. In other words he would be compensated for the difference in disability between having a stiff, numb finger and having part of a finger missing. Might not be very much.

Jimjams2 · 05/01/2007 10:29

I think he needs to speak to a lawyer directly. He won't be charged for an initial interview, and a lot of medical negligence is no win no fee isn't it?

Did the doctors at any stage say that the finger could no longer be attached because of the delay in going to surgery? If so I would have thought (as a non lawyer) that he had them by the short and curlies. If it's affecting his ability to carry out his work, then I would have thought it was worth talking to a lawyer.

CountessDracula · 05/01/2007 13:45

I will ask dh who is clin neg lawyer tonight and get back to you

geekgrrl · 05/01/2007 13:56

thanks everyone CD - that would be much appreciated.

eemie - of course he was negligent sawing his finger off - but accidents happen.

He was told by someone at the hospital when it was time for his surgery that digits could only be reattached up to 3.5 hours later and that it was now too late. There are so many other hospitals in the vicinity and apparently they pondered for ages as to whether they should transfer him or not.

(when he arrived at A&E he also had to queue for ages at reception and then spell his name and address out with a completely mangled - and at that point untreated - hand - just to give you an idea what a complete f*ck-up it was)

OP posts:
rhubarbcat · 05/01/2007 15:01

I know someone who's sawed 2 different fingers off in 2 different accidents within 3 months - now thats careless.

Anyway he was about 10 hours with each one before they got sewn back on and they "took" ok. He was kept waiting in local hospital for ages while they decided what to do, then transferred (well told to get himself to) to a specialist hospital about 2 hours away. His wife drove him there, then more waiting, prep for theatre, etc.

mooshy · 06/01/2007 20:10

dd1 accidently lost her thumb in the hinge of a door.We arrived at our local minor injury department at appox. 5pm.Within 10 mins they arranged an ambulance transfer to a specialist orthopoedic hospital.On arrival a specialist hand surgeon was called in on his day off.He operated a few hours later and reattached her thumb beautifully.
I can see how fortunate we were now.
Is this what they call a postcode lottery ?
11.5 hours is terrible . I hope they sorted him out with some pain relief while he waited. I would advise him to do some research first and if the evidence suggests time was a factor he should sue the pants off them ! Maybe there was a good reason for the delay, like a major road accident or such emergency that took priority. However if it was just the system and lack of resources/staff ect. thats neglet..

tissy · 06/01/2007 20:21

eemie has a point (several, actually). Is he left or right handed? The most important digits to save are the thumb and little finger (as they are rquired to grip). I would think that the order then goes index, middle, ring.

Even if reattached promptly, the chances of the finger working normally again are not good, especially as a saw tends to mangle the tissues, rather than cut cleanly (like a guillotine!). A stiff digit is much more of a disability than a missing one (unless it is the thumb).

Agree that an explanation from the consultant would be a sensible first step, rather than a trip to a lawyer.

tissy · 06/01/2007 20:27

mooshy, lack of staff is not neglect if the available staff are required to deal with a more pressing emergency. They would have to take into account whether transfer to another hospital would speed things up any (as the docs at the next hospital may be busy with more pressing emergencies, as well...).

At our large DGH, we have only one staffed operating theatre available for emergencies. The nearest alternative plastic surgery unit is 25 miles away, and in daytime would probably take more than half an hour to get to, even with blue lights going. Unfortunately, loss of half a digit isn't life threatening, and probably wouldn't be given priority, even in a plastic surgery unit.

geekgrrl · 07/01/2007 07:33

thanks for clarifying the situation re. reattachments - nobody ever went through this with him AFAIK and he has always been under the impression that the time-wasting was the reason for not reattaching it. Seems like this was probably not the case.
I'll pass on what's been said here.

OP posts:
mooshy · 07/01/2007 23:32

Tissy- i did write " maybe there was a good reason for the delay, for example an emergency or such other priorities " Am not suggesting losing a finger is life threatening , just looking at both sides .I suggested also he do some research, and we do not know if there was a delay due to a busy triage system, in which case he would rightly have to wait while more urgent cases were dealt with .
11 1/2 hours is a fairly long wait considering the government target is for 98% of patients to be seen, treated admitted or discharged within 4 hours.Recent evidence also cites that 27 % of casualties receive inadequate care due to delays in accessing specialist opinions and staff shortages - and no i dont think its the nurses problem They cant work any harder.

CountessDracula · 07/01/2007 23:40

sorry about the delay getting back to you we have been away

OK so dh said that the damages for losing a ring finger are about 8 or 9k. That would be if someone caused him to lose it.

However his loss of earnings claim could be much bigger

It will be complicated and he would need to establish via expert evidence that the delay was the cause of or contributed to his finger not being able to be sewn back on successfully. The hospital would of course have their own experts trying to prove that this was not the case. So they would probably take the average wait eg 3hrs and then argue about whether it would have been successful after this period of time AND how successful it would have been, eg would it have been able to be sewn back on but not have enough sensation to enable him to carry on with his work.

If he can genuinely not work then I suggest he approaches a firm of lawyers who will assess whether he has a case in which case they will offer him a conditional fee agreement (ie no win no fee). If they turn it down then he is unlikely to succeed. He may get legal aid, I don't know.


VVVwhatever · 07/01/2007 23:45

CD - would it not go in the claimants favour that the hospital triage assessed his injuries, and as triage - would know that there was a "time limit" on how long you have to re-attach severed limbs, and patients should be appropriately queued/added to the waiting list according to their injury etc?

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