Health board faces legal action

Lorraine Dickson died in 2011, now her daughter is taking legal action against NHS Lanarkshire
Lorraine Dickson died in 2011, now her daughter is taking legal action against NHS Lanarkshire

A Motherwell woman is suing NHS Lanarkshire after her mother contracted a flesh-eating bug caused by a draining tube being left in for days.

Sharon Boyle claims a “catalogue of errors” at Wishaw General Hospital led to the fatal infection which took her mother six years ago.

Her case rests on the claim that the drainage tube was left in too long – four days, rather than six hours – and reinserted after falling on to a bathroom floor.

Mrs Boyle’s mother, Lorraine Dickson, died in October 2011 at the age of 72 after developing necrotising fasciitis – a deadly bacterial infection which rapidly destroys soft tissues.

Mrs Boyle is bringing a damages case against NHS Lanarkshire which is due to be heard at Hamilton Sheriff Court next month.

She said: “I haven’t had a chance to grieve my mum’s death for six years because this case has been going on.

“My mum has got to have died for a reason, and if something changes for other patients then at least the pain and suffering she went through will have been worth something.

“No-one else should have to see their mother suffering the way I did.”

Mrs Dickson, who had relapsed breast cancer, was admitted to Wishaw General in September 2011.

Mrs Dickson, a former nurse, had a build up of fluid in her abdominal cavity which had to be drained using a tube inserted through her side.

Despite her ill health, Mrs Boyle said her mother was “very fit”, but claims the drainage tube was left in for too long.

She said: “She was up and about, walking, talking to people, eating her meals.

“She was asking me to bring in Christmas catalogues so that she could plan what presents to buy for her grandchildren.”

But her mother developed E.coli which then progressed into the fatal necrotising fasciitis.

Mrs Boyle’s legal team say that the length of time the tube was left in is what led to Lorraine contracting E.coli and later necrotising fasciitis.

She said: “The infection had spread from underneath her right breast to the top of her thigh.

“I was told that if they had tried to remove the tissue surgically, it would have looked like a shark bite.

“I knew my mother was going to die. If she had died of cancer I could have accepted it. But she died too soon, and she died from an infection which she should never have had.”

NHS Lanarkshire has denied liability for Mrs Dickson’s death.

Lawyers for the health board argue there were conflicting views on how to manage chest drains at that time and in the absence clear guidelines NHS Lanarkshire cannot be blamed for negligence.

They also said it cannot be proven that the chest drain was the cause of the E.coli infection which triggered necrotising fasciitis.

Infections are a common risk factor of ascites drainage, occurring in about 20 per cent of cases, but contracting an infection does not in itself mean the drain was incorrectly inserted.

Gillian McAuley, Wishaw General Hospital chief of nursing services, said: “We are unable to comment on any civil legal action against NHS Lanarkshire in relation to this case as legal proceedings are ongoing.”