We have successfully settled a claim for our client who suffered a devastating haemorrhagic stroke due to delayed diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure.
Most strokes are thrombotic and caused by a blood clot which blocks blood flow to the brain. Haemorrhagic strokes, which are less common, are caused by bleeding in or around the brain when a blood vessel bursts. Our client suffered bleeding within his brain, which is known as an intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH). Certain factors can make someone more likely to have a haemorrhagic stroke, including untreated high blood pressure (hypertension) and build-up of fatty material in the arteries.
When our client joined his GP surgery as a new patient, he was not offered a routine health check. When he did attend his GP for a check-up three years later, it was noted that his blood pressure was high. He returned for a further check-up, at which his blood pressure readings continued to be high, so he was sent for blood tests to determine the underlying cause of the hypertension.
The blood tests were marked as ‘abnormal’, but with no action required. Our client was not recalled for further blood pressure checks and no treatment was offered. Consequently, unknown to our client, he continued to have untreated high blood pressure for years, eventually resulting in an ICH.
Although our client survived the stroke, he developed left sided weakness in his face, arm and leg as well as slurred speech. As a consequence of the stroke and his immobility, he also suffered a pulseless electrical activity arrest (PEA) secondary to hypoxia, due to bilateral pulmonary embolisms. Since the stroke, he has undergone significant rehabilitation, but he continues to suffer from left sided weakness, with very limited use of his left arm. He uses a wheelchair, is only able to walk with the aid of a stick for short distances, and has required significant adaptations to his home.
We were instructed by the client to investigate his claim and commissioned various medical experts to consider the treatment that had been provided, including a GP, neurologist, neuroradiologist and cardiologist. The medical experts concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, if he had undergone a health check upon registration with his GP surgery, or had been asked to attend a follow up appointment after repeated high blood pressure readings, he would have been diagnosed with persistent hypertension and prescribed anti-hypertensive drug therapy. Had his hypertension been treated, his ICH would have been completely avoided.
The defendant GPs denied negligence on the basis that the claimant would, as a matter of routine, have been asked to attend a new patient health check, and had not done so. They stated that there had also been a communication breakdown after the high blood pressure readings, and he had been asked by the practice nurse to return for a follow up appointment after receipt of the blood test results, which he did not do.
Our client strongly contested this and confirmed that he had been specifically told by the receptionist, when calling for the blood test results, that no action was required and he did not need to reattend. His evidence was that if he had been told to reattend for further checks, he would have done so.
The defendants also argued that given the lack of testing in the seven-year period between the high blood pressure readings and the client’s stroke, it could not be asserted that he had persistent high blood pressure for the whole period, and therefore it could not be said that the ICH was specifically caused by longstanding hypertension.
Despite the defendant’s denial of negligence, our medical experts remained supportive of the claim and court proceedings were issued. In order to value the claim, as well as gathering condition and prognosis evidence from the neurologist and cardiologist, we obtained detailed quantum evidence from a neuropsychologist, a care, case management and occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, and an accommodation expert.
The defendants continued to deny negligence but, after lengthy negotiations, we were able to reach settlement and secure significant damages for our client.
Sarah Hibberd, the associate conducting this claim, who specialises in stroke cases, commented: ‘While no amount of money can compensate our client for his life-changing injuries, I am pleased that through hard work and persistence we have been able to achieve such a substantial settlement in this very complex and difficult claim. I hope the money the client has received will help to make his life easier by allowing him to buy the equipment that he needs and make further adaptations to his home. After working with the client for a number of years and seeing first-hand the impact the stroke has had on his life, it is fantastic to be able to resolve his claim and know that the compensation received will make a real difference to his quality of life.’