Settlement of claim for elderly patient injured after GP prescription error

Case Studies

Settlement of claim for elderly patient injured after GP prescription error

We have recently settled a claim against a GP surgery after our elderly client was prescribed the wrong medication in terms of type and dose, and suffered a fall and associated injury as a result of side effects from the medication given.

The claimant was in her late seventies and fully independent at the time of the events the claim related to. She was under the care of a local mental health team who wrote to her GP requesting that she be prescribed an antidepressant medication. The request for a prescription was actioned by the GP surgery; however, the wrong drug was prescribed and instead of the antidepressant, the claimant received a prescription for an antipsychotic drug. The error was also compounded by an inappropriately high dosage of the drug being prescribed. 

The prescription error was not noticed by the GP surgery. The claimant subsequently became confused and drowsy after starting the prescription and her speech was affected. On noticing these symptoms, the mental health team requested that the GP surgery increase the antidepressant dose. The fact that she was taking the incorrect medication was not realised by the GP surgery, and the dosage of the incorrect medication was increased.  

The error was eventually picked up after the claimant was hospitalised following a fall. She had awoken at night confused, and fell down the stairs at her home, suffering a fractured humerus. The hospital clinicians noted concerns about her cognitive presentation and the prescription error was eventually uncovered. The claimant remained in hospital for two weeks and required assistance around the home after her discharge. She subsequently required a further lengthy admission for ongoing symptoms of delirium before being able to return home again. 

On her return, her cognition and mobility continued to be affected, and she remained heavily dependent on family members for emotional support and assistance around the home. She also received support from carers visiting three times a day for six weeks, and needed to make adaptions to her home.  

Expert medical evidence was obtained to support the claim. The claimant’s experts confirmed that on the balance of probabilities, the large dose of the incorrect medication caused her to suffer poor appetite, and delirium/acute confusion resulting in a level of sedation. It was the claimant’s case that these symptoms caused her to fall down the stairs, suffer a fractured humerus, endure two lengthy hospital admissions due to delirium, and suffer an acceleration in cognitive decline and age-related frailty. 

After obtaining supportive expert evidence, a letter of claim was sent to the defendant. The letter of response admitted breach of duty, but denied that the erroneous prescription caused the claimant’s declining cognitive symptoms or the subsequent fall and resulting injuries. 

The claim was concluded after the claimant chose to accept the offer of settlement made by the defendant when serving the letter of response. She was pleased to have been able to conclude the matter without the need to engage in lengthy litigation and issue court proceedings. 

Laura Hanvey, a member of the elderly care claims team, comments: “This was a worrying case where our client was given entirely the wrong medication at the wrong dose and the error was not picked up. For her the consequences of the error and the fall have been significant – the resulting loss of quality of life and independence is something that has been very hard for our client. The reality is that things could have been much worse given the level of confusion and sedation the medication caused. Whilst it is helpful that the surgery admitted a negligent prescription error, it is hoped that these events have resulted in them carrying out a review of their procedures, such that this cannot happen again.”

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP