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Patient Death Highlights Importance of Hospital Protocols

A husband is to be awarded a six-figure compensation payment following the death of his wife after varicose vein surgery.

It was recently reported that Nicola Tweedy, 54, sadly died after suffering a fatal blood clot in her lungs following surgery for the removal of varicose veins.

Mrs Tweedy underwent the surgery in March 2014 at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and was discharged following her operation. She died at home two days later.

Although the appearance of blood clots following surgery for varicose veins is rare, it is a recognised risk. During surgery, because the legs remain still, blood flow through the veins can become slow, increasing the chances of a clot developing.

Blood clots most commonly develop in veins as a result of immobility. However, other factors such as obesity, dehydration and taking the contraceptive pill, can also increase the risk of blood clots developing.

Since Mrs Tweedy’s death, it has emerged that a thrombosis risk assessment was never completed. The hospital has conceded that it “could have done more” and has issued a full apology to Mr Tweedy regarding the negligent level of care his wife was given. A nurse involved in Mrs Tweedy’s care also accepted that it was an oversight that a checklist had not been completed on Mrs Tweedy’s discharge notes.

This tremendously sad case highlights the importance of hospitals following protocols to ensure that avoidable deaths like this do not happen. Not only is it important for hospitals to have protocols in place, but the protocols themselves need to be regularly updated as medical practices evolve.

In addition, any changes need to be effectively communicated to the relevant health professionals within hospitals, and staff must be trained on the importance of complying with protocols. Cases such as this should be highlighted as examples of the devastating consequences of non-compliance.

Although protocols should be in place in all hospitals, it is apparent that cases like this still arise when they are not followed, or when they are out of date. An independent medical expert appointed to look into the care provided to Mrs Tweedy called for the hospital’s protocols to be urgently reviewed, and the Norfolk Coroner, Jacqueline Lake is said to be compiling a report making recommendations to help prevent a case like this from happening again.

Although protocol compliance may seem, to many, to be no more than a routine ‘tick box exercise’, it is clear that in this case, Mrs Tweedy’s tragic death may have been avoided if a thrombosis risk assessment and the completion of a checklist on discharge had alerted her treating clinicians to the fact that she was at an increased risk of blood clots.

Claire White is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

If you or a member of your family suffered from negligent treatment in hospital, call our Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9049 or start your claim online and we will call you.

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