Chronic health conditions are health problems that require ongoing management over a period of years or even decades. These conditions cannot currently be cured but are controllable by way of medication and therapies either individually or in combination.
There is a large number of such conditions, both physical and mental, examples of which include cancer, HIV, diabetes and asthma, as well as depression and schizophrenia. The proactive management of people with such conditions including the promotion of self-care by patients is essential to ensure the best possible outcomes and overall long-term health.
But what happens when management is not up to a standard that you may expect? In the worst cases the results can be devastating.
You may be aware of the tragic case of Sophie Holman, a 10-year-old girl who passed away at the end of 2017 after having sought help for asthma on at least 48 occasions. At the time of her death Sophie had attended hospital on at least 13 occasions and had been treated at least 29 times at her GP surgery. However, each attack was treated separately and a long-term plan for treatment was never put in place.
Sophie’s final attack happened on 12 December 2017 and after attending her GP she was sent home with a prescription for steroids. Sophie’s condition worsened and the following day her parents had to take her to hospital, however unfortunately Sophie collapsed en route and sadly passed away.
Sophie’s care was recently the subject of an inquest after which the Coroner, Dr Shirley Radcliffe, was so concerned that she wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and NHS England chief Executive Simon Stevens. Dr Radcliffe warned of potential future deaths in the absence of changes to the system, stating as follows:
“There were many missed opportunities to optimise and coordinate Sophie’s medical management during her 48 attendances and admissions in the practice and hospitals (at least 10 of which included life-threatening features)”
“There were a number of missed opportunities to refer this child to a specialist respiratory team for investigation to characterise the nature and triggers of her chronic asthma condition and to optimise her medical management.”
“The medical records in the practice and hospitals lacked clear information highlighting the severe ongoing risk of poor outcome including future asthma death in the case of this child; there was no cohesive long-term plan for managing Sophie’s asthma with the result that no one recognised the cumulative risk factors that should have led to a specialist respiratory referral which may have resulted in a very different outcome.”
In short, opportunities to help Sophie were missed and the lack of a cohesive plan for the management of her condition led to the worst possible outcome for Sophie and her family. Unfortunately, this is not the first time such an incident has occurred and without substantial changes to the practices and procedures in place for dealing with asthma it would seem that it is unlikely to be the last.
With resources in the NHS stretched as far as they are mistakes will happen. While not all of them will result in such tragic outcomes, the mismanagement of any long-term condition can negatively impact a patient’s life. Consequences can be seemingly minor such as a short period of additional pain and suffering, but as highlighted above they can be much more severe.
At Wolferstans we have experience in pursuing claims for damages for clients who have suffered from mismanagement of a number of long-term conditions. If you or someone you know has suffered as a result of the mismanagement of a long-term condition and you would like to have a free confidential discussion about a potential claim, without any obligation, please get in touch.