Cauda Equina Syndrome - The spinal injury costing the NHS millions

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03 September, 2019

Leonie Millard

According to a leading consultant, failure to diagnose and treat Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) is costing the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

CES is a severe narrowing of the spinal canal usually caused by a prolapsed invertebral disc when the nerves become severely compressed. This can lead to numbness and weakness in the legs, numbness in the saddle area, difficulty controlling the bladder and even loss of bladder control.

Although CES is very rare, it is a very serious condition which can have life changing consequences if undiagnosed and not treated within the first 24 hours.

A recent national audit of the NHS found that standards simply aren't being met - 63% of referrals were made without an available MRI scan and therefore many did not have a confirmed diagnosis. In a report published by the NHS, evidence points to a lack of out of hours radiography support resulting in patients not receiving timely MRI scans which can lead to devastating consequences.

Many people who suffer from the condition are young and as a result, are often left unable to return to work and left needing lifetime care and support. Due to the nature of the problem this can cause, where negligence can be proven, it can often result in a six figure settlement.

The NHS has projected claims for the period 2014-16 are likely to be £68m, two thirds of which is due to failure to diagnose and treat the condition. This figure excludes claims against GP's and so the true cost is unknown.

More needs to be done to address the issue and reduce avoidable harm, CES should be treated as an emergency and urgent decompression surgery is critical. Medical professionals need to act quicker to recognise the red flag symptoms of CES to improve the prospects of individuals making a full recovery and reduce the likelihood of avoidable long term harm.

If you are affected by any of the issues mentioned above, you can find support with Leonie Millard is working with CESA (Cauda Equina Syndrome Association) to promote awareness, and can provide advice and guidance in exploring whether a medical case has been dealt with negligently.

For more information contact Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here

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