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Failure to diagnose dislocation leads to clinical negligence claim against East Surrey Hospital

Posted: 25/04/2014

Amy Milner, an associate in Penningtons Manches LLP’s clinical negligence team, has settled a claim against Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust for failure to diagnose a toe dislocation after a road traffic accident.  The claimant was involved in a collision and attended A&E at East Surrey Hospital. Amongst other injuries, he sustained damage to his left big toe, which he reported. The A&E clinician treating the claimant failed to assess properly or consider the swelling, deformity and restricted movement of his toe, and failed to request the appropriate X-ray. He was discharged without any follow up.  His toe did not improve and he subsequently re-attended A&E several weeks later with ongoing pain and restricted movement. Upon further examination and X-ray, the presence of dislocation was noted and he required surgery to reposition the toe.

It was the claimant’s case that the dislocation should have been picked up during the first visit to hospital – and it was negligent to have failed to do so. Had the dislocation been identified initially, reduction of the toe would have been carried out immediately, which would have avoided the period of significant pain and discomfort and the later need for surgery. Liability was admitted shortly after the Letter of Claim was served.

Commenting on the case, Amy Milner said: “This is one of several cases we have against A&E departments for failing to assess and investigate injuries properly.  While this may well be a resourcing issue, we are seeing a number of clients present with classic signs of fractures or dislocations who are advised that they have only soft tissue injuries.  Although in some cases the delay does not adversely affect them, the consequences can be serious.  This is an example of a situation where the treatment eventually required would not have been necessary with prompt diagnosis.  However the trust has been sensible in acknowledging its failures and settling the claim, which has been appreciated by our client.”


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