There is never any doubt that the principles of patient safety underpin NHS provision of care and advice. On the occasion when it looks as though an error of judgement might have been made, we must be careful to examine every aspect of a case to ensure all possible avenues have been properly investigated.
In a recent tragic case, a doctor’s judgement was called into question when a middle-aged female patient died from a blood clot, which had travelled to the lung from the foot where it was originally misdiagnosed as a “sprained calf.”
When the patient was first examined, the doctor suggested that the calf muscles had probably been strained when she had attempted to pick up Christmas decorations in December 2012. The treatment advised was to “rest, take some ibuprofen, apply ice, stretch the muscle, and to wear more comfortable shoes.”
In some cases of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) there may be no visible signs but possible symptoms can include pain, swelling and tenderness in one of the legs (usually the calf). It seems that the signs of a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) had been missed and the blood clot had found its way to the lung, which led to the patient’s death ten days after the doctor’s misdiagnosis. A verdict of “medical negligence” was recorded at the subsequent inquest.
May also lead to further complications
DVT usually occurs in a larger, deep leg vein, which runs through the muscles of the calf and the thigh, causing pain and swelling in the leg. It may also lead to further complications when a piece of blood clot breaks off into the bloodstream and blocks one of the blood vessels in the lungs.
Each year, one in every 1,000 people in the UK is affected by DVT. According to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) 2010, surgery and some medical treatments can increase the risk of developing DVT, and it is estimated that 25,000 people who are admitted to hospital die from preventable blood clots each year.
Prevention of DVT a priority
The Department of Health has made the prevention of DVT a priority and all patients admitted to hospital should be assessed for their risk of developing a blood clot and, if necessary, given preventative treatment. Misdiagnosis in the case of DVT can have fatal consequences and, it’s a matter of great concern whenever it is reported that an error or mistake may have occurred.
Most of the time, care provided by medical professional is never less than an accurate examination and a correct diagnosis, which leads to positive, responsive treatment and a complete recovery. Every day, NHS doctors make critical, life-changing decisions, which affect the future health and wellbeing of patients, and impact upon the lives of their families despite increasing pressures of limited financial resources and staffing.