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Clinical Negligence Solicitor Emma Doughty on surgical errors

By Joint Head of Clinical Negligence, London & Cambridge

It has been reported in the media recently that a man is suing the Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust for removing the wrong testicle. It is said he can no longer father a child because his remaining testicle is affected by Cancer. It really seems that we are being continually faced with these mistakes by the NHS. For example, I am about to issue court proceedings in a case where my client went into hospital in 2006 to have an undescended testicle removed and came out having had a stent inserted into his kidney. He was never given the appropriate information as to why he went in for one surgery and ended up having another but instead reports feeling that it was all rather rushed. It appears that there was no follow up arranged for this man despite him continually complaining of pain and making GP and hospital visits on numerous occasions.

For four years, my client suffered with agonising pain on urination, needing to urinate every 30 minutes and experiencing regular debilitating pain which meant he was bed bound. Throughout this time he struggled to maintain his employment and to support his family. He had three young children and found that as a result of his condition his family life suffered. He couldn't lift them up nor could he walk them to school because there was no toilet nearby. Those with children will appreciate that the early years is a precious time with young children and one that he will never be able to get back.

Throughout the time he remained undiagnosed, my client was told he suffered from urine infections and even depression! It was only four years later that someone actually reviewed his medical records and realised that during his operation in 2006, a stent had been inserted in his kidney and it had never been removed. It had been there for such a long time that it had calcified and tissue had grown around it. Once it was found, he had to have four surgeries to correct the damage and remove the stent. Eventually, 4 and half years on, my client was able to get back on with his life without being in pain and without having to plan his life around toilet visits.

He, and his family, were extremely relieved but this story is simply further testament to the really serious issues which surround the NHS today. These mistakes, such as removing the wrong testicle or leaving a stent in situ, take minutes to make but can take years to be unravelled and corrected. If Clinical Negligence lawyers like me were to hazard a guess we would say that such mistakes can only be attributed to the culture of targets to which the NHS is unfortunately tethered. If medical staff were able to properly consider the patient in front of them and take the time to read their records and follow up with them as they should do, how many of these mistakes would be avoided? Instead, over the last few years they have been constantly been pressed upon by the Government to see more people and spend less money. Anyone can see that that was never going to work.

Unfortunately stories like those discussed here are the product of such a culture and their existence is almost inevitable one might say. Of course, that does not help those like my client who have suffered so severely at its hands. We can only hope that investigations such as the Mid Staffordshire Report bring about a system of change which means that practices like that which affected my client will no longer be allowed to flourish.

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