Magnesium Sulphate has been shown to be a very effective neuroprotectant for babies born prematurely. The drug costs just £1 per patient and reduces the risk of preterm babies developing cerebral palsy by an astonishing 40%. Despite this, uptake in the UK has been poor. In order to improve awareness of the drug and to increase its usage a quality improvement project (PreCePT) has been carried out in the South West.
Five National Health Service Trusts and the West of England Academic Health Science Network participated in the project. PreCePT was rolled out in five maternity units across the South West: St Michael’s Hospital, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Great Western Hospital, Southmead Hospital and the Royal United Hospital in Bath. At these hospitals Magnesium Sulphate has been given to mothers who go into labour before 30 weeks gestation.
Literature published by the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust estimates that PreCePT has already prevented five to ten cases of Cerebral Palsy representing a potential lifetime NHS saving of around £5 million.
The PreCePT project is now to be rolled out to other Trusts across the country.
Contact a clinical negligence solicitor
Our specialist clinical negligence team have great experience in dealing with families affected by cerebral palsy and are well aware of how this condition impacts on these families both emotionally and financially. If you have any concerns related to childbirth, then please contact our specialist team, who will be pleased to assist you.
Your key contacts
Partner/Head of Serious Injury Team
Taunton and Southampton
Lee Hart is a partner in Clarke Willmott solicitors' Taunton Personal Injury team specialising in catastrophic injury and fatal accident claims.
Brain injury can encompass a wide range of conditions. For many it conjures up the image of a traumatic head injury caused by a road traffic accident. Although severe traumatic injuries account for significant proportion of those with a brain injury, many have less obvious causes and yet can have an equally dramatic effect on the lives of those around them.
It matters not whether your wife, your husband, your partner, parent, child or close family member has been in a road traffic accident or suffered an illness such as meningitis, encephalitis, a stroke or some form of hypoxia, the consequences of a brain injury will have an effect upon your relationship.
The impact of brain injury on a family
In the acute stage that may well be putting life on hold to spend time at a hospital bedside. As a recovery progresses it may mean giving up work or taking time off to act as a carer when the patient returns home.
There is no doubt that the early stages after brain injury are distressing and demanding but families rarely have time to think about the impact upon them as they direct all of their efforts in to caring for their loved one.
It is perhaps in the post acute stage, when a patient is sent home, that the pressures on family life begin to become more apparent. Each case is different, some families adjust admirably but there is no shame in admitting that it is difficult to cope. For a husband, wife or long term partner, they may find that there is a change of roles within the family, the injured person perhaps ceasing to be the main earner or perhaps unable to take primary responsibility for care of the family. It may be that the person who has an ABI (acquired brain injury) has undergone a significant personality change. In the some cases this has been described as being married to a stranger, such is the change in the character of the injured person.
The same problem can arise from a different perspective for the children of a brain injured parent, as they struggle to understand why the parent can no longer fill their pre-accident parental role.
If it is a child who has suffered brain injury, the loss of the child the parents the parents once had can lead to a form of grieving, irrespective of their love for and devotion to the injured child. These are difficult issues to face, giving rise to complex emotions. Organisations such as Headway, the leading brain injury charity, provide invaluable information and support to families who find themselves in such situations. Here at Clarke Willmott, if we are handling a case relating to a brain injury on your behalf, we have the experience to recognize that the whole family can be affected by what has happened and we adopt a holistic approach, seeking the right result for both the individual and the family as a unit.
Contact a specialist brain injury solicitor
If you are experiencing difficulties arising out of a the impact of a brain injury on your family contact one of our experienced specialist solicitors on 0800 316 8892 or contact us online.
Your key contacts
Partner/Head of CSR
Birmingham and Manchester
Philip Edwards is a partner in Clarke Willmott solicitors' Birmingham Serious Injury team specialising in amputation, spinal cord injury.
Clarke Willmott joins double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington to launch World Encephalitis Day campaign
Clarke Willmott joined double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington at the House of Commons to launch a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of a devastating brain condition.
Chris Thorne, Partner & Head of Personal Injury & Medical Negligence, and Partner Phil Edwards were on hand to support the Encephalitis Society as it unveiled its BrainWalk smartphone App last week.
The App, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play, is the centrepiece of the charity’s World Encephalitis Day campaign on February 22 and is designed to get people moving, get people thinking and reduce the often overwhelming sense of isolation that can follow encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) and other acquired brain injuries.
The charity’s ambition is that users of the free App will have walked 52 million steps – the equivalent of walking around the world – by the end of World Encephalitis Day on February 22.
Chris, who heads a team familiar with the problems caused by encephalitis, said: “It was a privilege to join Rebecca and the Encephalitis Society at the House of Commons and to meet so many Members of Parliament who, like us, came to learn more about the plans for World Encephalitis Day on February 22.
“We have supported the Encephalitis Society for many years now and they share our values of innovative thinking, hard work and dedication to clients and supporters.”
Chris and Phil were also invited by the Society in thanks to Clarke Willmott’s hard work in the charity’s Accumulator Challenge in November.
A total of 14 teams were each given £30 and asked to use it as a stake to raise as much money as possible in 30 days. A total of £14,000 was raised by the end of November – making it one of the Encephalitis Society’s most successful fundraising schemes.
Chris added: “We had a lot of fun with the Accumulator Challenge. It was something new for our team to get their teeth stuck into and I am delighted to say we were able to add to the significant funds we have raised in 2017 which will go towards helping people affected by encephalitis.”
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week: 22 – 28 January 2018
The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Reduce Your Risk’.
Research shows that half a million eligible women between the ages of 25-29 did not attend their cervical screening last year. 1 in 4 women delayed because of embarrassment and over half of women have delayed or not attended their appointments.
Cervical cancer is preventable or treatable in many case provided the disease is caught early and often it can be found at a pre cancerous stage through early screening which can identify abnormalities.
Cervical cancer: key information
The cancer develops in the cells lining the cervix.
Some cervical cancer statistics:
Every day 9 women are diagnosed with the disease
75% of cancers can be prevented through screening
It’s the most common cancer in women under the age of 35
The message this year is that women should make their screening appointments and not delay. Currently women aged 25-49 are invited every 3 years and those aged 50-64 every 5 years.
For younger women who have been vaccinated with the HPV vaccine it is estimated that this can prevent up to 70% of cervical cancers.
Clarke Willmott is pleased to support THINK! campaign
At Clarke Willmott’s serious injury team, we have written before about the particular dangers on country roads, our lawyers are all too familiar with the tragic incidences of road traffic collisions, some of them fatal, which happen because of the way some people drive in rural areas.
Against this background, we are pleased that the “THINK!” road safety campaign team have today relaunched its “Country Roads” campaign.
When we still have 59% of all road deaths happening on country roads, and the most recent statistics show that more than 10,000 people were killed or seriously injured in rural areas – anything which promotes road safety in the country, and which has the potential to reduce these tragic incidents is to be welcomed.
The THINK! Campaign is primarily targeting drivers aged 25-34 years – evidence suggested that following the previous campaign in 2015, this age group did reduce their speed, and it is hoped there can be further improvements.
The campaign is going to involve a radio and cinema advert – the latter using innovative graphics to allow people to see the hazards that might lie ahead by seeing through bends in the road. Using a wildlife documentary style, the hazards that can be present in common countryside sights are explained.
“Those of us who represent people who have had life changing injuries from road traffic collisions, or the families of those who have died on our roads, know that country roads remain a particular area of danger.
Every incident which leads to serious injury or death is an individual human tragedy – and we support the THINK! campaign. If this campaign saves one life, or prevents one road traffic collision in rural areas, then it will have been a success. However, if it can lead to a long term reduction in such incidents, even to eliminating them, then that would be a real cause for celebration.
If as many people as possible can share the THINK! message, then maybe we will see a much needed reduction in these tragic incidents on our country roads.”
If you have been involved in an accident and sustained injury then you may be entitled to compensation. Our specialist solicitors not only use their recognised skill and experience to obtain this for you, but will also advise on and arrange rehabilitation and other support services designed to get you back on track.
Mild brain injuries have often caused both medics and lawyers significant problems in understanding the true effects on people. It is perhaps obvious that mild brain injuries are more likely to recover than serious ones, but at the same time there can be a wide variety of outcomes.
A recent study in mice has found that a mild brain injury caused not only acute damage but also a lifelong degenerative process. In this study even mice that had a single mild brain injury showed working memory impairment, lack of spatial memory and certain motor deficits as well as degeneration of neuron projections – 24 months on from the injury. The author of the report said that it was the first demonstration of possible lifelong behavioural and pathological consequences of a mild brain injury.
Of course, this research does not necessarily mean that the same phenomenon will occur in people with mild brain injury. However experienced lawyers and medics who deal with injury claims are aware of the fact that subtle changes are often apparent. Many of these changes, whilst being a real change to someone’s sense of themselves, can be things which people learn to live with or find strategies to overcome them. But what if those subtle changes affect an important function in life? What if someone is in a high level job, but has a mild brain injury, and can no longer perform as they used to – maybe as a result a chance of promotion at work will no longer be possible. Maybe someone’s job required a particularly good memory, and the edge has been taken off that.
It is for these reasons that if you have a mild or moderate brain injury claim, that it is important that you instruct a specialist brain injury solicitor. A solicitor not only needs a good understanding of brain injury, but needs to know how subtle effects can actually cause more significant problems, and most importantly how to pull together the evidence which will demonstrate the real effects on people who have sustained an injury.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has produced a report critcising the services provided at Barnstaple Hospital. The Trust has been told that it must make ‘significant improvements’ in quality and safety.
Although the CQC identified 21 areas where the Trust needed to improve, worryingly Inspectors raised particular concerns about maternity services, where ‘staff were not always following best practice, resulting in cases where a baby had come to harm’.
The management of potential sepsis cases was also identified as being poor. Patients with this life threatening condition, which requires prompt diagnosis and prompt treatment to save lives, have been left untreated with antibiotics delivered to only 23 per cent of patients within an hour of diagnosis.
The report was produced after an unannounced visit by inspectors in October. The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, said: “It is disappointing to report that all four core services that we have inspected remain in need of improvement – and in some cases we have found the same concerns that we had raised during our inspections in 2014 and 2015.Although the staff working at North Devon District Hospital are invariably caring and conscientious, I have serious concerns about the quality of some services.”
The last inspection in 2015 also left the trust with a requires improvement rating but this time around saw effectiveness and leadership downgraded from good to requiring improvement.
The Trust has issued a statement suggesting that improvements are already in hand but the findings are worrying for residents in the North Devon catchment area who rely on the hospital for their health care.
Clarke Willmott are investigating a number of cases of potential medical negligence arising out of treatment received at the North Devon Healthcare Trust.
A register of mistakes during maternity care over two years to March 2017 has revealed that around one in five births are affected by mistakes.
Fortunately, most do not result in serious harm but some do with 288 deaths reported between April 2015 to March 2017 and 479 incidents recorded as causing severe harm. In addition, 8134 incidents resulted in significant harm.
The figures are part of a voluntary reporting scheme set up to monitor issues arising from maternity care run by regulator NHS Improvement.
It is not compulsory to report incidents but statistics indicate that staff have been encouraged to do so.
Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has indicated that poor care resulting in stillbirths or deaths soon after delivery, must be improved and in particular has targeted stillbirths for a reduction by half.
However, the Royal College of Midwives indicate that with short staffing on maternity units and around 3,500 more midwives needed, there are very serious concerns about how the situation can be improved.
The Care Quality Commission also agree that short staffing plays a part in incidents of serious harm.
As lawyers, specialising in birth injury claims, we see many incidents of avoidable harm including significant delays during delivery leaving babies who would otherwise have been born healthy, with brain injury and significant disability for life.
Errors result from a combination of factors including problems in communication between midwives and doctors, delays in calling senior doctors to a birth, failing to identify a serious condition during the delivery or not accommodating women on the delivery suite and sending them home from maternity units.
We have seen a steadily increasing number of enquiries relating to child birth with harm to both mother and baby.
Just days after our latest blog following Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that NHS hospitals will be compelled to disclose data relating to avoidable deaths, responses to a Freedom of Information Request have just revealed that the number of deaths relating to ambulance treatment have more than doubled in recent years.
The data released
The data, which was only provided by 7 out of the 10 ambulance trusts approached, shows that 72 deaths arising out of serious incidents involving ambulance services occurred in 2016, versus 31 in 2014. Examples included having no ambulances available to attend life threatening calls, failing to spot a patient was in “ventricular fibrillation” (which anyone who has undertaken a comprehensive first aid course is expected to recognise), and taking patients to the wrong hospital.
But what aren’t they telling us?
As lawyers, it is in our nature to think just as much about what we are not being told as what we have been told. It comes as no surprise that at a time when NHS resources are stretched beyond belief, that there are insufficient ambulances to service the needs of an ageing and growing population; but it is surprising that in the days of “Duty of Candour”, requiring NHS bodies to be open and honest about mistakes, that not all ambulance Trusts have been able to provide quality data in response to the request.
The data that has been released is worrying enough for patients, but 3 out of 10 Trusts failed to respond, which could be evidence of NHS organisations failing to tackle the issue of learning from mistakes head on, if at all. Out of those that did contribute, some could not say how many unexpected deaths there had been, so what was the point in gathering the data? How can we know that the same mistake has not happened to another patient in the same circumstances? How is the NHS able to be open and honest about mistakes and put in place safeguards if they do not properly capture and report on relevant issues?
How can there be such disparity between practice of different Trusts, when the same duties to report and learn from errors apply to all?
The quality of the investigation into a serious incident is likely to be a factor. As discussed in our last blog, some investigation reports fail to explore cases in full, or are quick to highlight good practice, but not necessarily offer a full and frank resume on the parts of the treatment that did not go so well. They can often paint a misleading picture, which comes out in the wash when expert evidence is obtained in the pursuit of medical negligence cases.
Some Trusts may not be carrying out investigations at all; or may mistakenly mis-categorise incidents, meaning that reports are not being carried out into matters that should be fully investigated.
Whatever the issue, the silence produced by many incomplete or misleading investigations will continue to have deadly consequences for both ambulance and hospital patients alike. Each and every single NHS Trust should be able to provide clear and accurate data on death and serious incidents without question. Until there comes a time when such data is freely published, and not simply released piecemeal as part of an FOI request, the NHS cannot be considered to be fulfilling its responsibilities under its Duty of Candour and its obligations to patients and their families to provide safe, good quality care.
Until that time comes, it is unfortunate for both patients and the NHS alike that legal advice and medical negligence claims will continue to be the most effective way of learning exactly what has happened in an incident and promoting change to ensure the mistake is not repeated again.
Contact a solicitor
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one and are concerned that it may have been due to failings in their medical care, contact us on 0800 316 8892 or contact us online.
Your key contacts
Partner & Team Manager
Bristol, Cardiff and London
Kerry Fifield is a partner in Clarke Willmott's Bristol Clinical Negligence team specialising in birth injury claims for Claimants with cerebral palsy.
All NHS hospitals to disclose data relating to avoidable deaths
The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced that all NHS hospitals will be compelled to disclose data relating to avoidable deaths in hospital care. The NHS estimates that up to 9,000 patients die in hospital each year due to failings in their medical care.
As part of the release of information, apparently families of patients will also be given full explanations relating to the death of relatives in circumstances where there has been a lack or care or an error in treatment. The Department of Health says such full disclosure will be used to support bereaved relatives and carers and will ensure they are treated with empathy, compassion and respect.
Mr Hunt told BBC Radio: “It’s about hospitals creating a culture which makes it easy for staff on the frontline to say, ‘look, something went wrong; I think it could have had a different outcome and we need to learn from this so it doesn’t happen again.”
These aims are laudable and any effort to improve patient care and create a culture of openness must be welcomed.
Whether the proposal will indeed bring about a sea of change in attitudes within the health service is a matter of some doubt. For those who suffer a family bereavement and for those solicitors working with bereaved families, the stories of Connor Sparrowhawk, the 18 year old whose death was found to be “entirely preventable” and one year old William Mead who died of untreated sepsis, both referred to by the government when making the announcement, are all too familiar.
Families remain confronted with a wall of silence or obfuscation from hospital trusts whose failings have caused the death of their loved ones. The Duty of Candour, introduced in 2014 to compel hospitals and doctors in general to make a full and open disclosure in relation to medical errors, whether they cause death or not, is still more honoured in the breach than the observance. Various subsequent initiatives have failed to create a culture of openness within the NHS and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
Too often, internal hospital investigations, supposedly independent, absolve the hospital of all blame. And yet when the families seek the assistance of a solicitor experienced in this field, the subsequent proper, fully independent, investigation establishes clear faults on the part of the hospital which have been entirely overlooked by the internal enquiry.
Like the Sparrowhawk and Meade families, many others battle through the complex and distressing inquest process, sometimes employing lawyers at their own expense, sometimes with lawyers working at no charge, in order to find out the truth about what happened to their loved one. In some cases, a claim for compensation may follow, particularly when a family has lost its main breadwinner and financial pressures have added to the emotional burden.
It may be sometime yet before we see any change in attitudes within the healthcare sector. For the foreseeable future, legal advice from those experienced in this field remains essential to steer bereaved families through a bewildering and distressing process.
Contact a solicitor
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one and are concerned that it may have been due to failings in their medical care, contact us on 0800 316 8892 or contact us online.