£100,000 recovered for inappropriate prescription of Gentamicin

Our client, a 63 year old woman from Gravesend, Kent, underwent a total knee replacement (TKR) on a private basis at the BMI Somerfield Hospital in Maidstone and subsequently developed an infection. The infection itself occurred non-negligently.

The decision was made (according to the medical records, by a microbiologist) to treat the infection with both Gentamicin and Ciprofloxacin. This began on 10.03.14 and continued until 08.04.14 when it was stopped by the orthopaedic consultant after our client reported feeling unwell and dizzy.

Gentamicin treatment continued despite an entry in the medical records by the microbiologist on 21.03.14 indicating that the organism responsible for the original diagnosis / treatment decision was probably a skin contaminant. This was not acted upon and the antibiotic regime continued for a further 18 days.

Unfortunately, our client was later found to have developed Gentamicin oto-toxicity, such that his balance was impaired. This caused some physical difficulties, particularly with walking, and he retired from his job a couple of years earlier than he had planned.

We instructed a microbiology expert who confirmed that Gentamicin should never have been prescribed for the infection our client had, that it should have been stopped on 21.03.14 when it was suspected the original result was due to a skin contaminant, and that it should not have been prescribed for more than 14 days at most in any event.

We then instructed an ENT expert who confirmed that, had the Gentamicin been stopped after 14 days, our client would not have suffered any ill effects including Gentamicin oto-toxicity.

A Letter of Claim was submitted to the representatives of the microbiologist Dr Donaldson. This resulted in a very unsatisfactory response in which it was stated that he had had no relevant involvement in our client’s care. A detailed rebuttal letter was sent, and we also took steps to include all other possible Defendants given Dr Donaldson’s stated position – they were all represented by the same professional indemnity provider.

Without any further response on the issues of liability, the representative for all potential Defendants made an offer of £90,000. Negotiations then took place, and the claim settled for £100,000.

Alex Tengroth, who had conduct of this case, said “this case highlights a potential problem with private treatment, where it seems to be much easier than in an NHS setting for there to be a lack of communication between medical disciplines and a failure to take overall responsibility for a patients’ care. Nobody appears to have been in control of the treatment, and there was no clear treatment plan. If my client had not reported feeling unwell, he may well have continued to receive Gentamicin for much longer than he did, resulting in a worse outcome.”