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Written on 28th September 2023 by Fran Rothwell

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence solicitors secured a £70,000 settlement for a woman who suffered a pulmonary embolism (PE) after her GP prescribed contraceptives which were not safe for her to use.

Our client attended her GP surgery for contraceptive advice and was given a prescription for Yasmin, a combined contraceptive pill which contains two hormones, progestogen and oestrogen. Seven months earlier, she had been diagnosed with ‘migraine with aura’ by another doctor at the same practice. The combined contraceptive pill was contraindicated (advised as not safe for use) for patients who suffer from migraine with aura. This is because, for those patients, the oestrogen in the pill was known to increase the risks of life-threatening blood clots, stroke and venous thromboembolism (VTE) such as pulmonary embolism (PE). A few months later, a nurse at the surgery allowed the prescription to continue when reviewing our client’s contraception.

Ambulance paramedic and GP fail to recognize signs of pulmonary embolism (PE)

Within seven months of first taking the prescribed, contraindicated pill, our client started having episodes of coughing up blood. Three days later she developed sudden, very severe pain in the area of her ribs  inwhich made it difficult to breathe. She called NHS 111 and reported her symptoms, including the sudden onset of severe pain, difficulty breathing and recent history of coughing up blood, as well as her feeling that this was not an asthma attack.

An ambulance was called but the attending paramedic assumed she was having an ‘anxiety panic attack’. The paramedic did not consider that she might have pulmonary embolism (PE) and failed to take her to hospital or refer her immediately to a GP or out of hours service, despite her difficulty breathing, pleuritic chest pain, raised respiratory (breathing) rate, cough and haemoptysis (coughing up blood), which were all recognized signs of PE.

Two weeks later, she attended her GP after an episode of gasping for breath whilst out running. She told the doctor about her call to NHS 111 and tried to show him the ambulance report. He refused to read it and prescribed medication for ‘hyperventilation and panic feelings’.  Four days later, whilst she was at the surgery, the same doctor prescribed antibiotics and steroid medication, without allowing her into his consultation room, examining her or checking her medical records. The doctor’s handling of these consultations was subsequently criticised by the General Medical Council (GMC). 

Two days later our client was admitted to hospital. She was found to be suffering from pulmonary embolism (PE) and received treatment. She developed residual Chronic Thromboembolic Disease (‘CTED’) from persistent blood clots and  needs lifelong treatment with anticoagulation (blood thinners)to reduce her risk of further life-threatening injury. She suffers from chest pain and has 10% respiratory disability from her breathlessness, half of which was caused by the PE.

Claim leads to admission of liability, apology and compensation

We helped our client pursue a claim against the GP practice and the ambulance trust, for the GP’s negligence in prescribing the contraindicated pill and the subsequent failures to diagnose her pulmonary embolism and refer her to hospital for urgent treatment. 

The NHS’s defence organization, NHS Resolution, responded by admitting that the GP’s prescription of the contraindicated pill was negligent, and that if correct care had been given our client’s PE would have been avoided. Our client received a written apology from her GP.

The case concluded with an out-of-court settlement of £70,000 to compensate our client for her injury.

If you have suffered severe injury as a result of medical negligence or have been contacted by HSIB/HSSIB/MNSI/CQC or NHS Resolution, you can talk to a solicitor, free and confidentially, for advice about how to respond or make a claim by contacting us.