Advising with empathy and experience

Claim for failure to manage worsening COPD.

The Claimant brought a claim on behalf of the estate of her late husband, further to concerns with regards treatment he had received from his GP during the last few months of his life.

The Claimant’s husband had a history of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The condition was well managed and was under control with the use of medication, including inhalers where necessary. However, in approximately July 2015, his health began to deteriorate. Following investigation by way of x-ray, indications were of worsening COPD.

In October 2015, the Claimant’s husband was receiving treatment from his GP for an ongoing chest infection. He was prescribed a two week course of Amoxicillin, on 12th October 2015, and was to be reviewed three weeks later.  

However, over the next few days, the Claimant’s husband’s condition deteriorated rapidly. His legs became swollen, and he was becoming breathless when mobilising. His appetite also decreased. His GP made a home visit, on 20th October 2015. After an examination, the GP advised the Claimant and her family that he would arrange for a blood test for her husband. Unfortunately, the referral to the nursing team was not made, and it appears that no record was made of the visit.

The Claimant’s husbands health continued to deteriorate, and a further home visit was requested, which was carried out on 13th November 2015. During this visit, the GP was advised the Claimant’s husband was becoming increasingly breathless, and was struggling to mobilise. His legs remained very swollen and the swelling was spreading across his body. The GP again advised they would arrange for a referral to the nursing team, and that they would arrange for oxygen to be sent to his home to assist with his breathing.

By 2nd December 2015, the Claimant and her family had not heard anything from the nursing team. The family contacted the GP surgery, as the Claimant’s husbands health was worsening. They became aware during this contact that no referral had been made, and there was no record of the visit on 20th October 2015.

The GP arranged an emergency referral to the nursing team shortly after the family made contact with the surgery. In the meantime, the team recommended that he be prescribed Oramorph and Furosemide, to reduce the water retention in his legs. The medication was received the same day, and the family were advised they would receive a visit from a nurse on 3rd December 2015. This did not materialise.

Sadly, Mr Lane passed away in the early hours of 4th December 2015. Cause of death was noted on the Death Certificate as COPD.

An expert report was obtained from a Consultant Physician. This confirmed that the failure to arrange for a nursing visit to be made following the first home visit on 20th October 2015, fell below a reasonable standard of care, and that this was further compounded by the lack of any such visit being arranged when it became clear that there had been no improvement three weeks later.

It was noted, though, that this did not impact on the timing of the Claimant’s husband’s death, as he was very unwell with COPD. However, it did add to his pain and distress in the last few months of his life, as the measures were not put in place to make him as comfortable as possible.

After putting the claim to the Defendant, they awarded the Claimant £7,500 in full and final settlement, to reflect the pain and suffering caused during the Claimant’s last few months, and the care provided to him by his family.