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Michelle Woolls: NHS offers no explanation to random blistering

My colleague Paul Sankey recently blogged about the news that the government has agreed to introduce a legally enforceable Duty of Candour in healthcare – a duty to be open and honest with patients when things go wrong.
This would have been helpful in a case I have recently taken on. My client underwent routine keyhole surgery on his shoulder. Immediately after the operation, his underarm area felt very sore. On examination, he discovered a large burn which has taken weeks to heal and has significantly delayed his recovery.
He has received no explanation from the hospital as to how this may have been sustained but in a recent complaint response, the NHS Trust stated:
"On rare occasions, blisters do appear following surgery. they appear to be random and vary in severity. The orthopaedic directorate has invested a great amount of time researching why this happens; unfortunately they have so far been unable to establish the reason for this random appearance of blisters. I can only apologise that you were not made aware of the possibility, however rare, of this happening".

My colleagues and I were slightly amused to read this response and in all our years of doing this job, we have certainly never encountered another case where a client has spontaneously developed a 'blister' in a completely different site to where the surgery took place. It is far more likely that this burn was sustained as a result of the diathermy or ablative equipment not being used appropriately. Thank goodness our client sought legal advice; otherwise he may have taken the Trust's response at face value and simply lived with this far from satisfactory outcome. Michelle Woolls is an assistant solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.