A widower has received medical negligence compensation after an NHS Trust admitted it was liable for the death of his wife.
The claimant’s wife went into a mental health unit to receive treatment. After admission, doctors noted that she drank excessive amounts of water and ordered blood tests and a review of her medication.
The hospital carried out the blood tests but the results were not reviewed and the woman carried on drinking water in excess for more than a week. This fact was noted in her medical records. She eventually collapsed and was transferred to ICU where it was discovered that she had a massive swelling on her brain caused by her excessive water consumption. The woman suffered irreversible brain damage and later died.
The solicitors ascertained that the staff at the unit did not treat the woman appropriately. She had very low sodium levels, a fact that showed up in the blood tests, and if these test results had been made available to the appropriate staff, action could have been taken. The staff also failed to control the amount of water the woman was drinking, even though it was noted in her records, and it was felt the problem should have been escalated to a more senior doctor.
This case did not get as far as the courts. The NHS Trust concerned did agree liability and although the settlement they offered in the first instance was unacceptable, negotiations for an improved payout proved successful.