Advising with empathy and experience

Damages award for delayed diagnosis of tuberculosis.

John Coulson of the specialist CNCI team at Harrowells has successfully concluded a claim arising from delayed diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. 


The original Claimant in the matter was a man in his early 60s who had attended his GP surgery reporting abnormal weight loss and breathlessness. Preliminary tests suggested lung damage consistent with tuberculosis and sputum samples were taken to exclude this as a diagnosis.


At this stage the original Claimant was advised that one of the three sputum samples had tested positive for an environmental tuberculosis bug.  The Claimant was advised at that stage that treatment would not usually be arranged based upon just 1 out of 3 positive samples.


The original Claimant continued to suffer with symptoms and further sputum samples were taken and, again, 1 out of 3 came back with a growth of tuberculosis bacterium.  By July of 2015 the diagnosis of tuberculosis was noted as possible.


His condition continued to deteriorate and he was suffering with coughing and significant chest discomfort, as well as weight loss.


He continued to attend his GP surgery in May 2016 with symptoms of a chest infection and in May 2016, after a further x-ray suggested reactive tuberculosis, an urgent referral was made to a chest physician.  Shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was commenced on a programme of treatment for the condition.


Sadly,  the patient's health continued to deteriorate through 2016 and he passed away just after Christmas.  Tuberculosis (mycobacterium intercellular) was recorded on his death certificate as a contributory factor in addition to  other underlying health issues.


Although the deceased had commenced the claim in his lifetime, instructions were subsequently obtained from a close family member as personal representative. 


Medical records were obtained and evidence was commissioned from a Consultant Physician.  Thereafter Letters of Claim were sent both to the deceased’s GP and to the Defendant Hospital Trust.


Medical evidence suggested that with a timely diagnosis and treatment plan the deceased would have survived for a longer period and would have experienced much reduced pain and suffering in the final months of his life.


There were ongoing disputed issues between the Defendants in terms of responsibility for the delay in diagnosis and treatment of the deceased’s condition.  Nevertheless, the representatives of the NHS Trust put forward an offer in settlement of the claim in early 2019 and this offer was accepted by the Claimant’s personal representative, who applied for and secured, a Grant of Letters of Administration to enable her to formally conclude the claim on behalf of the deceased’s Estate.


The claim was concluded without recourse to litigation.  Although the time limit for commencing a claim was about to expire at the time the Defendant’s offer was made, an agreement was reached between the parties for an extension of limitation in order to allow the final administrative issues to be resolved.


Speaking of the claim, John Coulson said, “In the UK tuberculosis is, thankfully, a rare condition, although once it was a major cause of death.  Sadly, its rarity seems in this case to have resulted in a delay in diagnosis and treatment.  Had the putative diagnosis been acknowledged and addressed properly at an earlier stage then the deceased could have been spared a considerable degree of pain and suffering.  We acknowledge that the award of compensation in this claim will not do anything to ease the pain of the family’s loss but we hope that awareness of this case can serve as a reminder that tuberculosis remains a significant health concern, even in the 21st Century”.