£65,000 settlement after Essex hospital death

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted on Friday, November 18th, 2016

Leading medical negligence solicitors have achieved a substantial settlement for the family of a woman who died following admission to Southend University Hospital with a painful pancreatic condition.

Essex & Herts solicitors Attwaters Jameson Hill acted for the mother of 35-year-old Nicola Ames on behalf of the Estate and dependants, recently settling the case for a global sum of £65,000, comprising damages for pain and suffering, funeral expenses and a dependency claim.

Rochford resident Nicola Ames, whose medical history included alcohol dependence and epilepsy, was taken to Southend University Hospital on the morning of 16 December 2009 with acute pancreatitis. Due to alcohol withdrawal, she became agitated after she was admitted.

By mid-afternoon on the following day, hospital staff experienced increasing difficulty dealing with Nicola. Her agitation, confusion and lack of co-operation increased as the staff failed to manage the situation, despite giving her significant doses of the sedative haloperidol.

The patient became increasingly hypoxic, meaning insufficient oxygen was reaching the tissues. She was not then, as she should have been, referred to the Intensive Therapy Unit, where she could have been intubated and ventilated under anaesthetic, and intravenous therapy and fluids properly administered.

The end result was that Nicola Ames’ hypoxia worsened. Staff continued to administer the sedatives, without any effective treatment for her hypoxia, and she suffered a cardiac arrest late on 17 December, which resulted in her death just after midnight.

It was established during examination of the circumstances of the case that, over a 10½-hour period, she had been given 55mg of haloperidol, compared to a recommended daily maximum dosage of 15mg.

“Hospital staff basically lost control of the situation and were unable to control Nicola’s alcohol withdrawal,” explains Attwaters Jameson Hill. “Rather than intubating her, which would have deemed the patient safe and provided the opportunity for effective treatment, they just kept administering sedatives in huge quantities. This caused her death.”

The family solicitors’ formal allegations of negligence against Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust pointed to a catalogue of clinical failings, overdosing of haloperidol and an absence of timely and effective treatment. Also, there had been no review by a senior doctor or consultant on the evening of 17 December.

As a result of the findings of the medical negligence claim, an Inquest in the matter has been opened and is due to take place on Friday 12th September 2014 at Chelmsford Coroners Court

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