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Damages awarded to husband of elderly woman who died following an avoidable hospital fall

Posted: 08/12/2016

Penningtons Manches has settled a claim against Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust for a client whose wife died following a fall in hospital. 

His wife was in her eighties at the time of these events. She suffered from vascular dementia and lived at home with her husband who provided the majority of her care. While at home she was mobile and although she required some supervision, she did not need walking aids.

In 2014 she was admitted to Frimley Park Hospital with general weakness, increased confusion and a possible urinary tract infection. On admission, she was assessed as being dehydrated with postural hypotension and spiking temperatures. Given her instability, she was correctly assessed to be at high risk of falls and therefore a falls care plan was initiated. The situation deteriorated to the point where her falls risk was deemed to be so high that she required a one-to-one healthcare assistant to monitor her risk of falls, called “specialling”.

Despite needing one-to-one assistance, she was left unattended by the healthcare assistant and during that time, she fell and fractured her right femur. She required a cemented hemi-arthroplasty procedure to repair the fracture.

Following surgery, the woman suffered from post-operative delirium and had episodes of hypoglycaemia, acute kidney injury and infection. She also developed an ileus, which was likely to be related to her metabolic derangement. She later contracted pneumonia and died.

The Penningtons Manches team obtained expert evidence which confirmed that she received an unacceptable level of care which led to an avoidable fall. An expert geriatrician addressed the consequences of the fall, comparing them to the path her medical condition might have taken if it had not occurred.

A letter of claim was submitted to the trust and the claim was settled after Part 36 negotiations with the NHS Litigation Authority.

Lucie Prothero, a senior associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team who specialises in elderly care and hospital falls cases, comments: “We are seeing a significant increase in the number of enquiries relating to falls among the elderly, involving both hospital and community-based care. In many instances, these falls have very serious consequences, leading to disabling fractures, brain injury and sadly, as in this case, death. There is a large amount of publicity at the moment about the UK’s ageing population and the devastating effect that falls can have on the elderly. This case highlights the importance of ensuring that older patients are properly assessed for their risk of falls – often, simple safeguards are all it takes to prevent them and avoid the devastating loss that our client suffered.”

For more information on elderly care claims and hospital falls, click here.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

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