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A&E Staff Fail To Diagnose Patient’s Broken Neck

Ambulance ouside A&E
16th September 2015

A male patient who failed to be properly assessed and immediately treated at hospital following a serious road traffic accident received damages and was offered an apology for the unnecessary suffering caused.

The claimant had been admitted to a hospital A&E suffering from a broken neck after being involved in a high-speed car collision. However, the A&E staff simply removed the patient’s neck collar and gave him pain relief tablets.

The decision was taken to transport the patient to the X-ray department but, unfortunately, the bed bumped against a door frame during the move, causing further pain. The patient then collapsed onto the floor while trying to stand up. A senior doctor, who became involved at this stage, ordered a CT scan, which revealed that the patient was suffering from broken neck bones.

The patient was immediately transferred to another hospital to be treated by a team of nerve specialists and was fitted with a spinal injury brace to be worn for five months.

Series of errors

A subsequent investigation found that staff at the hospital A&E department had made a series of errors.

Upon arrival at A&E, the claimant should have been treated as a “trauma” patient by the trauma team or a senior doctor. The neck collar should not have been removed and the patient should have been given more powerful pain relief directly via a vein rather than being forced to swallow tablets. It was also found that the patient should have been immediately X-rayed where he was instead of attempting to transfer him to a X-ray unit.

The failure of the A&E staff to properly assess and treat him had caused the claimant unnecessary pain and distress. Instead of suspecting a broken neck, which was confirmed by the CT scan results, the staff had put the patient at further risk by removing the collar.

The hospital trust apologised to the patient who was awarded damages for the unnecessary pain and distress experienced. The trust also agreed to review their procedures for assessing a trauma case and the involvement of a senior emergency doctor.