Claim Against the NHS Following Negligent Back Treatment

We acted for a middle-aged man who successfully brought a claim against the NHS following negligently performed treatment to his back.

Our client had for some time suffered from low back pain following a serious road traffic accident in 2008. This injury prevented him from returning to work as a HGV driver and to his previous hobby of martial arts.  He remained under the care of the hospital but was hopeful that he would, one day, return to work and resume fully activities. Unfortunately, his back condition deteriorated and he was re-admitted to hospital for treatment of a recurrent L4/5 disc prolapse.

The surgery performed was a lumbar canal decompression and discectomy at L/5, involving the surgical removal of the bulging disc. There is a well-known risk of a dural tear in this procedure. This is where the tissue surrounding the spinal cord is penetrated during surgery, although it can usually be repaired without long term consequence. Unfortunately for our client, the surgeons’ attempts to repair the tear were unsuccessful and over the coming days our client’s condition deteriorated. He felt drowsy and disorientated and developed severe headaches and muscle pain. He remained in hospital.

Eventually our client was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and underwent further surgery which successfully repaired the dural tear and stopped the leak of spinal fluid (CSF leak). He was administered antibiotics and this successfully cured the meningitis. Unfortunately the meningitis infection caused cognitive problems to develop, particularly difficulties for our client with concentration and memory, as well as associated problems of anxiety and depression.

A claim was brought against the relevant NHS Trust and we obtained expert evidence that made a number of criticisms of the hospital. The principle allegation was that the manner in which the surgeons attempted to repair the torn dura was incorrect. Our expert evidence was also critical of the treatment that our client was given after the initial surgery, especially the delayed administration of antibiotics and the delayed follow-up surgery to repair the dural tear.

Despite what we considered to be compelling evidence, the NHS chose to deny liability for the injuries suffered by our client as a result of their treatment. Legal proceedings were issued and a Defence was entered by the NHS Trust maintaining that the treatment was of an acceptable standard.

Whilst the case was progressing, our client was unfortunately struggling to recover from the effects of the surgery. He continued to suffer from low back pain but in addition, he was still experiencing severe headaches, memory problems and debilitating anxiety and depression. Sadly, during this period, our client separated from his wife and he became socially withdrawn. He was very reliant on a close friend to provide additional care and support.  Fortunately the outlook began to improve for our client as he started voluntary work in a youth centre and then enrolled on a course to train as a Youth Worker.

More positive news arrived when discussions with the solicitors representing the NHS Trust resulted in a five-figure out of court offer being made to the claimant, which effectively compensated our client in full for the symptoms and financial losses he had suffered as a result of the negligent treatment. Our client was delighted with the outcome, expressing his view that the compensation was more than he had expected and he could now move on from this regrettable and avoidable episode.