Settlement obtained after vulnerable man drowned in bath
Sharon Allison, partner and head of medical negligence at Ashtons Legal, has obtained a five-figure settlement for the parents of a vulnerable man who drowned after suffering an epileptic seizure whilst in the bath. The Coroner at his inquest found there had been a number of systemic failures in the healthcare provided to him by the NHS.
Mr F was on the autism spectrum and had learning difficulties but was capable of living independently providing that he received help on a regular basis. The NHS Trust charged with his care had referred him to a number of services who arranged psychiatry, occupational therapy and community support visits for him. Mr F missed these appointments on several occasions and found it difficult to maintain communication with the support staff assigned to him.
Following two seizure-like events, Mr F underwent medical tests and was subsequently diagnosed with epilepsy. Due to safety concerns, he was advised to stop taking baths, despite disliking showers due to his sensory autism.
The frequency of Mr F’s seizures began to increase whilst communication with support staff continued to deteriorate. Having not managed to contact him for several days, Mr F’s mother went to his flat where she sadly found him unresponsive in the bath.
The post mortem revealed that he had died from drowning after having an epileptic seizure whilst bathing. The resulting inquest revealed that there had been no contact between Mr F and the health professionals allocated to him in the six months leading up to his death and that had opportunities been taken to put his care back on track, his death might have been prevented.
The care failures highlighted included the lack of an effective flagging system to identify Mr F’s disengagement with medical professionals and to recognise potential increases in risk and how that would be managed on a multi-disciplinary basis. The NHS Trust also failed to have a process in place to ensure that any changes in Mr F’s health were properly communicated to all those supporting him. Had all parties known that Mr F’s seizure frequency was increasing then urgent measures, such as removing the bath or providing supervision while he bathed, could have been implemented.
Sharon Allison comments: “This case highlights what happens when one part of the multidisciplinary team does not function. Care in the community is necessary and can be a good thing but its very existence relies on reliable and consistent input from health practitioners who raise concerns when they arise otherwise patients can be left at risk. These cases are beyond tragic. The impact that such a loss has on the family left behind is immeasurable. It is hoped by highlighting this case and others that lessons are learned to prevent other families from experiencing such devastation.”
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