Advising with empathy and experience

Claim for delayed treatment of breast abscess.

We were instructed by the Claimant to pursue a potential clinical negligence claim, due to her concerns with regards medical care she received in the first few weeks following the birth of her first child, in March 2015.

The Claimant was discharged from hospital shortly after giving birth, and was successfully breastfeeding her baby at that point. However, after a few days, the Claimant began to experience some soreness when breastfeeding.

The Claimant mentioned this to her midwife at a review appointment, and advised that there was a lump present in her left breast. The Claimant believes that the lump had been there for approximately a week beforehand.

The midwife recommended that the Claimant arrange an appointment with her GP. Following an examination, the Claimant’s GP confirmed that she had mastitis, and prescribed antibiotics to the Claimant.

The situation did not improve and the Claimant therefore attended her local GP out of hours. The Claimant was diagnosed with an abscess in her left breast, and was prescribed an alternative antibiotic.

Unfortunately, the Claimant’s abscess worsened, and the redness present in the affected area became more extensive. The Claimant therefore returned to the out of hours clinic.

The out of hours GP contacted the surgical team, requesting a review, given the length of time that had passed. They refused and advised that the Claimant should continue taking antibiotics.

The Claimant attended her GP Surgery again a couple of days later, as her left breast was becoming more and more painful. She had also developed a high temperature. The Claimant’s GP again contacted surgery for a referral but they advised that she should be seen at the breast clinic, and an appointment was arranged for the next day.

Later, on the same day, the Claimant began to feel very unwell. She therefore attended A & E. By this point, the abscess had begun to discharge. As the Claimant had an appointment at the Breast Clinic the following day, she was simply advised to go home and wait.

The Claimant was eventually seen, at the Breast Clinic, the next day. They confirmed a diagnosis of a discharging abscess in the upper outer quadrant of her left breast. The Claimant underwent an incision drainage of the abscess, under general anaesthetic.

It was noted that the Claimant had developed a deep abscess cavity. The Claimant required daily dressing changes for the first few weeks, and every other day thereafter.

Due to extent of the abscess, and the extent of surgery therefore required, the Claimant was in a considerable amount of pain during the dressing changes, and required morphine on each occasion.

The wound had fully healed within three months of it first developing, although with some scarring remaining.

As a result of her time in hospital, and the surgery, the Claimant was no longer able to continue breastfeeding her baby. The Claimant was in a considerable amount of pain whilst recovering from the surgery, and was very dependent on family and friends to help her during this time, and whilst caring for a newborn.

An expert report was obtained from a Consultant Surgeon in Breast Disease. They advised that the care provided to the Claimant, in refusing a surgical review, fell below an acceptable standard, and that, with an earlier intervention, there would have been earlier drainage of the abscess and, therefore, a shorter period of recovery. Furthermore, the abscess is unlikely to have developed to the extent that it did, and the Claimant would have avoided additional pain and suffering, caused by the delay. The Claimant was in agonising pain and in a very vulnerable state, given the recent birth of her child.

Attempts were made, on numerous occasions, to settle this matter with the Defendant. Unfortunately, whilst the Defendant did admit that the Claimant should have been referred for the surgical review as requested, they refused to accept that this delay prolonged the Claimant’s recovery.

The Claimant therefore brought proceedings against the Defendant, before making a further offer of settlement. Following a period of negotiation, the Defendant awarded the Claimant compensation, to reflect the additional pain suffered, and the extended recovery period caused, by the delay in arranging for a surgical review.