£50k payout after bungled procedure led to 19 day stay on intensive care

John Radcliffe Hospital
John Radcliffe Hospital

Hospital bosses have apologised after a bungle put a man who had expected to go under the knife for surgery in intensive care for two-and-a-half weeks.

A judge at Oxford County Court ordered that Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust pay £50,000 in damages and cover the patient’s legal fees.

She also called on the hospital to review ‘as a matter of some urgency’ its practice around using bronchoscopy ports, after one of the anaesthetists involved in the man’s negligent care said she was ‘surprised’ by the insistence of the cardiothoracic surgeons that one was used.

The patient had been admitted to hospital on March 15, 2018, for elective dental surgery under general anaesthetic.

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His intubation - the process of placing a tube into his airway to attach to mechanical ventilation for the surgery - was expected to be more difficult than normal, as he was a smoker, clinically obese and had suffered from asthma as a child.

Lawyers for the patient claimed that his treatment after his right lung partially collapsed during the first intubation procedure was negligent.

It was claimed that negligence led to the collapse of his left lung, resulting in the insertion of a chest drain and a 19 day stay in the intensive care unit.

Doctors instructed by both parties agreed that he now suffered from shortness of breath and ‘reduce exercise tolerance’.

Summarising the impact on him, Judge Melissa Clarke said: “He cannot do things like gardening.”

In a written judgement, the Oxford judge found that OUH’s care repeatedly fell below the acceptable standard.

During the third attempt to intubate him, the plastic tube used to keep the airway open - called an endotracheal tube - was in his right bronchus for ‘at least an hour’, the judge said.

“Once corrected, that was followed by a left endobronchial intubation [placement of tube into left bronchus] as disclosed by the 5.15pm chest x-ray, which lasted probably around two or three minutes.”

Judge Clarke said an expert witness instructed by the hospital, and who gave evidence during the trial, ended up ‘perilously close’ to being an ‘apologist’ for the doctors involved in the bungled procedures.

Oxford University Hospitals had denied negligence and challenged the claim.

However, after the county court trial OUH’s interim chief medical officer Dr Anny Sykes said: “Following the conclusion of this case, we accept the judgement of the court.

“All our staff aspire to deliver top quality care to all our patients, and we apologise that these standards fell short on this occasion in 2018.”

The Trust ‘regretted’ the distress the case had caused the patient and his family.