Man repeatedly sent home with brain injury wins £675K damages

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Doctors at a Shefford medical practice and a hospital sent a man home on TEN separate occasions despite continuing headaches and sickness making him feel like he was ‘going to die’.

A CT scan eventually revealing he’d suffered a bleed causing brain damage which has left him partially sighted.

Alex Rea was sent home on EIGHT separate occasions by doctors at his local GP surgery, Dr Cakebread & Partners, at The Shefford Health Centre.

He was also discharged TWICE from the A&E department of Lister Hospital in Stevenage, with doctors dismissing his symptoms as concussion and a possible ear infection.

He was finally sent to Bedford Hospital – more than two months after first seeing doctors - after staggering into an out-of- hours surgery.

Mr Rea, who was 45 at the time, had suffered since being the victim of an attack when out with his family. That afternoon he went to Lister Hospital A&E department, who sent him home believing him to be concussed.

He was then continually dismissed by doctors at his local GP surgery, and on another visit to the A&E department.

“I couldn’t understand why nobody would listen to me and why they were not taking me seriously. By the end I was vomiting almost all day, every day and my sight and balance was getting worse and worse,” said Mr Rea.

“I kept going back and they’d just give me pain-killers and antibiotics, which was ridiculous given I was always being sick. I was just spending all day in bed and at times I was too ill to move, yet when I did get to the doctors I got no answers.

“In the end I was getting paranoid and I started to think there must be some sort of conspiracy going on and that they were deliberately doing it and trying to kill me. I just couldn’t understand it.”

Mr Rea was finally referred for a CT scan after visiting an out-of- hours surgery because his own GP was closed.

They immediately sent him to Bedford Hospital where a CT scan showed bleeding on the brain. That was removed at Addenbrookes Hospital the following day as a hole was drilled into his skull and the clot drained.

Now, Mr Rea has won a £675,000 damages case against the GPs involved at the surgery, with their insurers and those of East and North Herts NHS Trust, which runs Lister Hospital, agreeing to a joint settlement.

“I really believed that my GPs being closed that day saved my life,” Mr Rea added.

“I was so bad that I felt I was going to die. I rang the telephone number for my GPs and it said it was closed with it being a Sunday and advised to visit an out of hours GP. I went to the nearest one and I only just made it.

“I was carrying a bowl with me as I was feeling like I was going to be sick and I was on the verge of collapsing on the spot as I couldn’t balance and was struggling to see. When I walked in someone took one look at me and said ‘don’t even sit down’. I was sent straight to Bedford Hospital.”

Mr Rea, who was previously a finance manager at a motor trade business, has been left with permanent damage to his sight, losing a third of his vision, and unable to return to work.

He is registered partially sighted and has to read all correspondence on an Ipad as he can magnify the text. For a period he was homeless as he was unable to find work, having a number of probationary periods at employers which failed to materialise into full term positions.

“I tried to go back to work just wasn’t able to focus on the jobs and do them well enough because of my brain injury and sight. I just can’t take information in and cope. I tried four or five jobs but never got past the trial period,” he said.

“It has been really tough as my life has fallen apart in many ways. I now live on my own in a housing association property, and if it wasn’t for the successful compensation claim I’d have nothing. Hopefully I can use my money to see my young son more, as he lives away from me at the minute.”

As part of the legal claim it was alleged that had Mr Rea, now aged 52, been sent for scans by the third time he visited the GPs, treatment may have been able to return his sight to normal.

It was also claimed that had he been referred for scans on any of his subsequent visits his sight would have been better than it currently is.

Negligence was admitted on six of the eight visits to Dr Cakebread & Partners, and for the second visit to Lister Hospital.

Gary Warriner, a medical negligence expert at specialist claims firm Hudgell Solicitors, who represented Mr Rea, says it was ‘scandalous’ treatment.

“The doctors at this GP surgery and Lister Hospital badly let down Mr Rea through not only a failure to be thorough in their investigations of his symptoms and the potential causes of his headaches, dizziness and sickness, but also through their complete failure to take into consideration the circumstances of his illness starting.

“It is truly scandalous that a patient can keep returning and highlighting red flag signs of a serious head injury, to effectively be completely ignored by doctors. How can a GP surgery not take further action after eight separate visits? What more does a patient have to do?

“When a patient is persistently suffering from headaches and dizziness, with the problem also effecting their eyes, alarm bells should be ringing. In this case Mr Rea’s symptoms were actually worsening over a sustained period of time.

“Mr Rea says he felt it was a conspiracy, but it was either an appalling lack of care or complete negligence. Either way it has resulted in him being left with injuries which will impact on his quality of life for the rest of his life.”

Having been discharged by Lister Hospital A&E on the night of his attack, Mr Rea was seen by six different doctors at Dr Cakebread & Partners.

Four of those doctors, Dr Stephen Cakebread, Dr Shiv Shekaran, Dr Sarah Griffith and Dr Roy Boodhun were named as being negligent in their treatment as part of the claim.