Settlement against hospital trust for delay in performing appendectomy


We have recently settled a claim against the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for a client who suffered pain and emotional distress following a delay in performing an appendectomy (the removal of an appendix).

In June 2003, our client, who has a family history of appendicitis, presented to A&E with extreme abdominal pain and nausea, which had started that morning. In A&E, she was diagnosed with a clinical infection and her bloods were recorded as normal. However, this was not correct: her white blood cell count was high, as was her CRP level (a measure of the levels of a certain type of protein in the blood). This blood test result was indicative of an infective or inflammatory disease and should have been recorded as so.

The following day, our client’s white blood cell count had deteriorated and again, it was incorrectly recorded as normal. It was not until the evening of 28 June 2003 that a diagnosis of acute appendicitis was made, and an appendectomy scheduled for the next day.

Whilst awaiting surgery, our client, who was a teenager at the time, was placed in a room by herself. Her stomach pain was agonising, which caused her to vomit repeatedly. This was understandably a very distressing experience for her.

The next day, our client underwent an appendectomy to remove her appendix. It was noted that pus was found around the appendix and that the appendix itself was extremely gangrenous. Our client was never informed of the gangrene on her appendix.

Around a week later, she was released from the hospital with a prescribed course of antibiotics. Our client, however, continued to suffer abdominal pains and, later that month, she was taken to A&E again. A CT scan showed that she had three collections of pus that needed to be drained. She therefore had to undergo another operation to remove the infective pus.

Investigations were carried out as part of a clinical negligence claim. It was alleged that there were failures by the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to correctly interpret our client’s increased white blood cell count and CRP level on two occasions, and to subsequently organise a prompt ultrasound scan, which would have led to a more rapid diagnosis of appendicitis. There was a consequential failure to perform an appendectomy, due to the delay in diagnosis.

The defendant trust accepted that it had failed to correctly record our client’s blood results and apologised for this error. Following negotiations with the defendant, we are pleased to have reached a settlement for our client who appreciated the fact that the defendant acknowledged its failings and apologised for the sub-standard care provided to her. It is hoped that this claim will benefit future patients with suspected appendicitis.


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