We have secured a settlement for a child who was burnt with phenol acid during a routine toenail avulsion procedure. The mistake which occurred was completely preventable.
The child attended a local podiatry centre run by Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust for a toenail avulsion to treat an ingrown toenail. It was explained that phenol acid would be applied to the nailbed to prevent regrowth after the nail had been removed. During the procedure, the expiry date on the bottle of phenol acid was checked but unfortunately the cap was not secured at the time. As a result, the child suffered a superficial partial thickness acid burn to his left calf, measuring 14 cm in length.
Insufficient steps were taken to neutralise the acid in the immediate aftermath of the burn. The child’s mother therefore took him straight to the nearby A&E department for further treatment. He was immediately referred to the specialist burns unit at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. The burn required several litres of irrigation to neutralise the area and he was left with significant discolouration.
We instructed an expert in plastic and aesthetic surgery to assess the extent of the injury. Unfortunately, it was considered that skin grafting would not improve the discolouration and dermal scarring and that the child would be left with permanent scarring for the rest of his life.
We invited the Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust to make an early admission of liability in light of this incident being classed as a 'never event'. Liability was admitted in full and settlement discussions were concluded without the need to issue court proceedings.