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Patient safety concerns after spinal surgery settlement

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A woman whose ‘woeful’ spinal operation left her with nerve damage and incontinence has secured an admission of liability following representation by Shoosmiths.

Judith Mills was operated on by neurosurgeon Hussien El-Maghraby under an NHS initiative at the privately run Woodland Hospital in Kettering, which does not have acute facilities, but later spent seven months recovering in an acute NHS hospital.

NHS Resolution has accepted liability and an interim payment has been made to assist Mrs Mills in her living requirements before the final amount is agreed.

Surgery providers Ramsay Healthcare said the surgeon did not provide the level of care patients have the right to expect in the procedure, which was carried out in 2014.

Mrs Mills is one of a number of Shoosmiths’ clients who have suffered life changing injuries as a result of brain and spinal surgery by Mr El-Maghraby, all represented by Kashmir Uppal, a partner specialising in medical negligence cases in the firm’s Birmingham office.

Another is the widow of Stephen Bridgman, from Redditch who was left in a vegetative state after Mr El–Maghraby operated on his benign brain tumour in 2016 at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust, where Mr El-Maghraby works as a consultant.

Mr Bridgman’s brain was irreparably damaged following heavy bleeding and he died shortly afterwards.  
 
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) was asked to review four of Mr El-Maghraby’s cases in 2017 resulting in him being restricted from carrying out two specific surgical procedures pending further training and mentorship.

The General Medical Council has looked into complaints about Mr El-Maghraby in relation to Mrs Mills, but has decided not to review its original decision to close the case, on the basis that it is “unlikely” that Mr El–Maghraby would perform complex spinal surgery in the future.

Kashmir Uppal said that while she was pleased that Mrs Mills will now be able to make much needed adaptations to her home, she was concerned that other patients may still be at risk.

In the Mills case, Shoosmiths’ expert witness said the performance of the surgical intervention was ‘woefully below an acceptable standard,’ with only one of five screw implants considered well placed.

Kashmir said she wanted the GMC to consider putting specific restrictions on Mr El- Maghraby’s practice in the light of the decision on liability rather than relying on him not to do complex spinal surgery.

Lawyers, in her view, have a duty to root out patient safety concerns and make regulators aware of issues that might be part of a wider picture.

She was the lead solicitor in the complex litigation arising from the surgical procedures performed by the disgraced breast surgeon, Mr Ian Paterson and was involved in the criminal and regulatory proceedings that led to his conviction and being struck off the GMC register.

Kashmir Uppal said: 

“Our job is more than securing compensation for our clients. It's also about identifying themes and patient safety issues, so that we can then take steps to address them, whether though regulation with the GMC or getting involved in government consultations.

“It’s important for us as lawyers not just to deal with each case in isolation, but to ask whether this is part of a bigger problem associated with a particular trust; is it because there's a lack of clinical governance, a lack of medical experience, or is something more sinister going on?”


She said it was vital that in multidisciplinary team meetings, test results were fully considered by everybody, and decisions on how to proceed made jointly.

Kashmir Uppal added: 

“Everybody will be a patient in the NHS one day or another, so it's in all of our best interests to have better and more protected NHS services.  Also, in the private sector, we need to make sure that if you go into hospital, the same clinical governance measures are implemented to protect patient safety.”
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