Negligent care of Cystic Fibrosis patient at Frimley Park Hospital

Miss RB had a long standing history of cystic fibrosis, a serious inherited disorder which mainly affects the viscosity of secretions in the lungs and the pancreas although can affect other organs. Her symptoms began in early childhood but persisted throughout her life and included persistent chest infections, difficulty absorbing food and general ill-health.

Miss RB did however lead a full and fulfilling life and was cared for and deeply loved by her doting and attentive parents Mr DB and Mrs CB.

Miss RB was a long standing patient of Dr Knight, a respiratory physician, based at Frimley Park Hospital part of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, who became the subject of professional disciplinary proceedings at the General Medical Council which included suspension from practice.

Miss RB was admitted to Frimley Park Hospital acutely ill on 29th January 2010 and died on 10th February in circumstances and against a background of negligent care and treatment of Dr Knight and The Trust.

Initially, claims were brought on behalf of Miss RB’s Estate under The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1934 and claims for psychiatric injury of Mr DB and Mrs CB whose unimaginable misfortune it had been to watch their daughter bleed to death in front of them over a period of 12 days!

Once all the medical records and extensive complaints and professional disciplinary documents had been obtained and considered, expert evidence was obtained from a physician specialising in adult respiratory medicine and cystic fibrosis in particular. Expert evidence established a number of failures of care of Dr Knight (some of which mirrored the findings of the GMC) which included:

  • Dr Knight failed to establish and maintain a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to the care of Miss RB and instead appears from the notes to have worked in isolation and to have dominated the care input. Modern CF care involves a MDT approach which would have been the Bolam acceptable standard for Miss RB’s care throughout her time at Frimley Park.
  • Dr Knight failed to discuss or record any dialogue with Rebecca or her parents regarding the potential treatment of lung transplantation.
  • Dr Knight failed to discuss with Miss RB gastrostomy or nasogastric feeding or institute an adequate regime of nutrition for her either as an outpatient or during her admission to Frimley Park from 29th January 2010 to 10th February 2010 so that she was poorly nourished on admission and extremely poorly nourished prior to and at the point of her death on 10th February 2010.
  • Dr Knight failed adequately or at all to discuss end of life planning with Miss RB and or her parents so that neither Miss RB nor her parents were at all adequately prepared for the terminal demise and it effects upon them, particularly exacerbating the suffering of Miss RB and Mr DB and Mrs CB themselves pathologically.
  • Dr Knight’s quality of communication to Miss RB and her parents was severely wanting and is a matter of public record so far as the Fitness to Practice hearings held in connection with Dr Knight at the GMC.
  • Mr DB and Mrs CB had sustained psychiatric injuries witness the traumatic and shocking death of their daughter.

Peter Flory was able to convince the NHS LA that but for these failings, Miss RB would not have died when she did. The NHS LA admitted negligence on behalf of The Trust for the Estates’ claim but denied liability for the psychiatric injuries of Mr DB and Mrs CB based on the Court of Appeal decision in Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v Ronayne which had been decided during the time Mr Db and Mrs CB’s claims were being explored.

Eventually, the claim for compensation on behalf of Miss RB’s Estate was compromised in the global sum of £50,000 with reasonable legal costs but regrettably the claims on behalf of Mr DB and Mrs CB had to be discontinued with no order as to costs the weight of the case law being against Mr DB and Mrs CB succeeding in their claims.

Mr DB and Mrs CB said of Peter Flory’s legal representation of them:

“Thank you for all you help through this long, very emotional and stressful road and for all your hard work.

Although this settlement is never going to take the pain away from losing her, at least we have had an admission from the NHS,
That with proper treatment, she would not have died when she did. For that information, we are very grateful to you.

A least with this settlement we can now pay some bills and take away another stressful part of our lives.

One again thanks for all your help and sorry for raising your blood pressure sometimes,”