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Written on 11th June 2021 by

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence lawyers have secured a £125,000 settlement for the family of a nurse who suffered devastating neurological injury from tuberculous (TB) meningitis as a result of delays in referral to hospital, diagnosis and treatment.

The woman was in a minimally aware state caused by the severe injury to her brain, when her husband asked us to investigate a claim against her GP and the hospital, after another law firm had advised him to discontinue the claim.

Failure to act on symptoms indicating infection causing neurological impairment

Our client was from India, where tuberculosis (TB) is prevalent. She was married with two grown up children and had been living and working as a nurse in the UK for many years.

She became unwell with nausea and headache which, over the next two days became worse with fever and vomiting.  She attended a locum GP who treated her for a viral illness. Over the next three days she suffered increased vomiting, dizziness and confusion. Her husband called NHS 111 then took her to see an out-of-hours GP who recommended paracetamol or ibuprofen for viral infection.  Four days later, after her son’s call to the GP, she attended the surgery but was confused, drowsy, and unable to explain her symptoms coherently or respond to the GP’s questions.  Her husband told the GP that she had been unwell for a week, with vomiting, severe headache and fever. He was asked to deliver his wife’s blood and urine samples to the hospital for testing, but our client was not referred to hospital despite her signs of TB meningitis.  

By the next morning, our client was unresponsive with an episode of incontinence. Her husband called the GP who called an ambulance and visited our client at home. Her level of consciousness was assessed as 9/15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale (indicating a moderate brain injury). She was taken by ambulance to hospital.

On admission to hospital a junior doctor diagnosed intracranial (within the brain) infection. She was started on IV (intravenous) antibiotics (not effective against TB bacteria) and acyclovir (for viral infections). A CT scan showed subtle changes within the brain. Her level of consciousness was fluctuating.  She was reviewed several times that day by various specialists. At 6.45pm a consultant neurologist noted that an MRI scan taken earlier that day was consistent with TB. A lumbar puncture revealed raised intra-cranial pressure. Her cerebrospinal fluid was analysed and the results later that night were typical for TB meningitis. She was reviewed again in the early hours by an ITU doctor whose impression was TB/bacterial meningitis, and at various times during the next and following three days. Treatment for TB meningitis was finally started on the morning of her sixth day in hospital.

On transfer to the John Radcliffe Hospital for further treatment, it was confirmed that the initial cerebrospinal fluid test had been positive for TB meningitis which would have been treatable by all standard anti-TB treatments. Our client’s condition deteriorated over the following months, leaving her in a minimally aware state, needing full-time care, gastrostomy feeding and a tracheostomy until her death five years later.

Making a medical negligence compensation claim

We helped our client’s husband make a negligence claim for compensation for his wife’s suffering and his family’s loss arising from her death. The claim was based on the GP’s failure to recognise symptoms of infection affecting our client’s brain and refer her for immediate hospital admission and investigation, and the hospital’s failure to begin anti-TB treatment on or after the evening of her admission to hospital.

The GP denied negligence and the hospital accepted that treatment should have started by the middle of the following day after admission. Both disputed that earlier treatment would have avoided our client’s brain injury. Despite the defendants’ denials of liability, they made an offer to settle and, after further negotiations, settlement was agreed at £125,000.

If you or a family member have suffered serious injury as a result of medical negligence, you can find out more about making a claim by speaking to one of our specialist solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us mednegclaims@boyesturner.com.