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Patient sent home from A&E in agony after doctors failed to spot broken arm

Patient sent home from A&E in agony after doctors failed to spot broken arm

A patient was sent home from A&E in agony and told to take painkillers after doctors failed to spot she had fractured her elbow. 

Shirley Johnstone went into Southend University Hospital complaining of severe pain in her right arm but was diagnosed as having a sprain.

Doctors only spotted that Mrs Johnstone had, in fact, a fractured elbow six days later when her X-ray was reviewed.

Mrs Johnstone, 60, has now instructed law firm Slater and Gordon to launch legal action against Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, claiming her injuries became much worse as a result of the delay in getting proper treatment.

It is alleged that a further X-ray showed that the fracture had displaced by four millimetres in the time between her first visit to A&E in April 2011 and when doctors finally realised their mistake, which is claimed to have caused the married stepgrandmother-of-eight to require surgery.

The chef, from New Road, Wakering, Essex, needed wires inserted into her arm to hold the bones in place and four months off work.

Shirley said: “I woke up and was in a lot of pain one morning. At first I thought I’d slept awkwardly but it was absolute agony. I decided to go to hospital to get it checked out, just in case.

“I had an X-ray done and the doctor said nothing was broken and I should take some painkillers and go home. You trust that they know what they’re doing so despite the pain that’s what I did.”

Having been reassured her that she just had a muscular injury, she was shocked to receive a phone call from the hospital to tell her she had fractured her olecranon - the bone that forms the tip of the elbow.

Shirley added: “I’m worried the break got worse in those days before it was properly diagnosed and treated. I was told by one of the doctors that these things happen, that these sorts of things can get missed.

“Apart from that, I’ve not had much explanation as to why something as serious as a break can get missed. If it can get picked up from the same X-ray a few days later why didn’t it get spotted the first time.”

“I was really surprised something as serious as a break could be missed. I’m a chef and it’s important that I can use my right arm. As a result of this injury I’d had to take a lot of time off work. I still get a lot of pain in this arm.”

Mrs Johnstone’s lawyer, a clinical negligence specialist at Slater and Gordon, said: “The hospital recalled her once the mistake had been identified. But in the intervening six days we believe her injury became worse and as a result she required surgery which we allege would not have been required if she had been treated when she first attended A&E.

“We consider a second x-ray showed that the fracture had displaced four millimetres in the intervening days and Shirley then had to have wires put into her arm to fix the bone in place.

“Shirley had every right to expect a fracture to have been picked up when the first radiology images were taken.

“It was only as a result of the hospital’s review protocol that a week later the fracture was finally diagnosed, during which time we argue her injury deteriorated and she was in agony. This is unacceptable and could have resulted in more serious complications.”