Chloe Cooper
Posted on 25 Nov 2013

Retained Sutures Claim Settled for £10,000

Michelmores' Chloe Cooper secures damages for victim of negligent nursing.

Sutures, or surgical stitches, have been used in medical procedures for thousands of years. Catgut thread is generally no longer used for closing wounds on humans, and has been replaced by other synthetic, absorbable materials; however, not all sutures are absorbable, and confusing the two can lead to significant injury.

Leaving surgical equipment in a patient post-operatively is an NHS 'Never Event' - something so serious, and so avoidable, that it should never be allowed to happen. The Michelmores case report below case shows the consequences of an error of this kind, and the resolution reached under an experienced solicitor. We have changed the claimant's name to maintain her anonymity.

Alice's surgery

Alice underwent a thyroidectomy to remove a tumour. The surgery proved a success, but she was subsequently diagnosed with a further tumour and readmitted for surgery.

This surgery also went well, with the suturing administered properly, and Alice was content with the resulting scar's appearance. However, it was here that the problems began. Four days after surgery, she was seen by a district nurse to remove the suture. The nurse tried to pull the thread out, but failed. Rather than seek advice, she simply cut off the ends of the thread, told the patient that this was an absorbable suture, and sent her home.

Meanwhile, the scar became red, painful and tight, and began interfering with Alice's work. Raising her arms pulled on the scar, causing discomfort, and she was forced to reduce her working hours. Over the course of the next few months the scar became hypertrophic (raised and vivid), causing increasing discomfort and itching.

She had been told to use hydrating silicone patches on the scar, and underwent several painful steroid injections, but ultimately had to undergo further scar revision surgery. It was during this surgery that the suture was discovered and finally removed, having remained in her body for 8 months longer than it should have done.

Making a claim

With the help of Chloe Cooper, Alice was able to make a claim against the hospital for the retained suture, which was eventually settled in the sum of £10,000. This took account of the pain Alice suffered, and the loss of earnings and other costs associated with remedying the error.

Chloe was able to negotiate the compensation without the matter going to court, something which she says can be hugely beneficial for claimants.

'Where the NHS is prepared to put its hands up and concede liability, the time it takes to secure compensation can really be reduced,' she says, 'and in this case we were able to use an admission to bring about a quicker outcome. Successful claimants can then start the process of putting it all behind them and getting on with their lives.'

'When you look at this particular case,' Chloe adds, 'the nurse was brazenly careless. You can see the level of distress that arises from this kind of mistake, and the fact that it was entirely avoidable makes it even more important that claimants are compensated promptly and adequately.'

A drawn-out claims process not only creates added stress for claimants, but also results in greater costs for the defendant - in many cases, the NHS. Not just from the claimant's perspective, then, but also the taxpayer's, admission of liability and prompt settlement are surely to be desired in cases like this.

If you would like to discuss a claim relating to retained surgical instruments or any other 'never events', you can contact us for free, for discreet, impartial advice.