Surgical infections and claims for compensation

Thursday 7th June 2018

Recent reports about dirty surgical instruments leading to delays in operations at Russells Hall Hospital led me to wanting to put down in writing some of my thoughts about infections developed following surgery.

Anyone who has had surgery will be aware of the lengthy consent forms used by hospital staff prior to operations, warning patients about the various risks and complications that could occur. We’re asked to sign to confirm that we understand and accept the risks set out within the consent form, and more often than not, ‘infection’ is listed as a risk. This is quite right too; infection is indeed a risk of pretty much every hospital procedure you can think of.

A lot of the time, the infections you might develop whilst in hospital have nothing to do with negligent care or poor standards, it’s just bad luck. What hospital staff should be doing is taking reasonable precautions to prevent patients from developing infections. Simple steps such as washing their hands and using surgical gloves before operating are steps which should be taken to reduce the risk of patients developing infection. You walk down hospital corridors and there are as many sanitising gel dispensers as there are doors; it’s all part of the plan to cut down the development and spread of infections as far as possible.

Reasonable steps aren’t always taken, and that’s when litigation follows. If basic procedures aren’t followed, and infection develops, a claim could be brought. If an infection develops as a result of bad luck, but then the diagnosis or treatment of that infection is delayed, a claim could be brought. We have experience of cases involving necrotising fasciitis, a particularly nasty infection; delayed treatment of this can have devastating consequences and it’s important to spot the signs early and take the appropriate action.

Using dirty surgical instruments would certainly give rise to legal action if an infection develops. Fortunately our local hospital, Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, have procedures in place which stopped the dirty instruments from being used. They were returned for re-sterilisation before any damage could be done.

Joseph Norton, Head of Compensation
Waldrons Solicitors