Diabetes claims for compensation can be made there has been delayed diagnosis. Also, where diabetes treatment has fallen below a reasonable standard. If care falls below a reasonable standard, then that it is considered to amount to Medical Negligence.
When can diabetes claims be made?
A diabetes compensation claim can be made when a patient suffers an injury, or a worsening of their condition, because of negligent failures. This can be failing to manage diabetes reasonably, or the failure to diagnose diabetes promptly.
Failures in management of diabetes can be as follows:
Failures by a GP in misdiagnosis or to pay attention to worsening symptoms. Doctors can also overlook necessary tests, or fail to refer a patient to a specialist in diabetes (a physician).
Sometimes, care under a physician is poor. We have also handled cases where there was poor communication between a GP practice and a hospital physician, leading to patients being neglected.
Failure to reach a diagnosis of diabetes over several years which can lead to multiple issues such as sight loss, erectile dysfunction, diabetic retinopathy. Neuropathy can develop in about 30 percent of patients. There can be imperfect sensation in the feet.
Failure to monitor in hospital resulting in brain injury.
A not uncommon scenario is the mismanagement of toe ulcers. For example, if a GP prescribed antibiotics for a toe ulcer and only referred a few weeks later this can lead to amputation. Ulcers won’t heal if a vascular supply is not good. It is a breach of duty in accordance with national guidelines if patients aren’t referred within 24 hours but there is no causation in all likelihood, in the presence of severe vascular disease.
NICE foot guidelines 2004 (updated 2015) state that patients should be referred within 24 hours referral in relation to new ulceration, swelling, discolouration.
Tragically, a teenage girl lost her life to diabetes when she was given sleeping tablets by her GP, instead of diabetes being diagnosed. Read more about her very sad case by clicking here.
This is a common medicolegal scenario seen in patients whose diabetes has been mismanaged. Typically there is a minor injury in a neuropathy affected diabetic patient, such as a sprain. But due to the nerve damage, the patient cannot feel the injury. Bones become weak leading to fracture, deformity, and the bones in the foot to remodel themselves. This leads to increased risk of ulceration and also amputation and is difficult to manage.
Presentation is usually a swollen unilateral foot. Other symptoms may be redness or the foot feels warm to touch. The patient might think they have sprained their foot. The injury triggers the Charcot process in a diabetic patient. If the patient continues to walk on the foot, bones will crack and sublux. The patient ends up with a classic “rocker bottom” foot.
Treatment for charcot foot
Any new swelling of the foot should be assumed to be Charcot until it has been proven otherwise. Antibiotics are prescribed and the foot must be protected to immobilise it. This is either a plaster cast or an air foot walker. This is a three to 15 months process to preserve the foot arch.
Prognosis of charcot foot
Sadly, the diagnosis is often missed. If the deformity is severe, surgery may be needed to prevent the loss of a toe, foot or life. If referred at over eight months from injury, 70 percent of people end up with complications. However, if referred within four months, the risks reduce to less than 15 percent.
Preventing Charcot Foot
Patients with diabetes can help themselves prevent Charcot foot and its complications by:
- Keeping blood sugar levels under control to help reduce the progression of nerve damage in the feet.
- Having regular checkups from a podiatrist or physician.
- Checking both feet every day and seeking medical advice immediately if they notice signs of Charcot foot.
- Being careful to avoid injury, such as bumping the foot.
Why are diabetes negligence claims common in the UK?
Figures provided by the NHS state there are 3.9 million people living with diabetes in the UK. That’s more than one in 16 people in the UK who has diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed). This figure has more than doubled since 1996 when there were 1.4 million. By 2025, it is estimated that five million people will have diabetes in the UK.
Clearly, the fact that people are living longer has contributed, and the rising population number. However, poor lifestyle choices - being sedentary and consuming processed sugar etc - are major contributing factors.
The sheer volume of diabetes patients in the UK means that inevitably there are diabetes claims as a result of poor care.
In the most severe cases, a patient can lose their eyesight, or a kidney, or a limb (through having to have an amputation). Clearly, such severe injuries have permanent life-changing consequences. Victims of this type of medical negligence for failure to manage diabetes will need compensation to help them to cope for the rest of their lives.
Is diabetes curable?
Unfortunately, once a person has developed diabetes, it is generally not a curable condition (some patients recover from Type 2 diabetes after bariatric surgery). Some patients may find it goes into remission if they start to look after themselves properly by exercising, eating healthily, and managing their weight. However, for others, management has to be by either taking medication every dayin tablet form, or by way of insulin injections.
It is extremely important that health care providers properly monitor patients who are clearly at risk of developing diabetes, and those who have already been diagnosed. This is because the condition of diabetes can worsen, leading to more aggressive treatment being required (such as moving from diet control to diet control and tablets or moving from tablets to injections) and failure to pick up on this can have the most serious consequences, even sudden death.
This is not scare-mongering. A high blood sugar level is actually poisonous to the human body. This can be particularly damaging to small blood vessels, for example, supplying eye-sight. Badly controlled diabetes can also lead to problems in the outer parts of a person’s limbs, which is why diabetic patients are at higher risk of amputation than the ordinary population. This can start with a simple case of a cut, or blister that refuses to heal. This is because there is no longer a good blood supply to the outer extremities.
Elderly patients are particularly vulnerable
We have acted in various cases where elderly patients have been neglected, leading to cuts, or blisters on their toes. These eventually turned into gangrenous wounds. The patients end up being rushed to a hospital. By this stage, it is usually too late to save them from having to undergo an amputation. This may be of a toe or even all of the toes and part of their foot. For patients suffering serious injuries, clearly it is important they have access to justice. They should bring a diabetes negligence claim.
Doctors are under a reasonable duty of care to pay proper attention to injuries suffered by diabetic patients and to take into account their risk of poor healing, to avoid further complications occurring.
Practical advice to avoid diabetes claims
Of course, patients should also be educated by their doctor in how to monitor their own blood glucose levels. They should also be educated about the importance of monitoring their own blood glucose levels every day.
If you, or a loved one, is diabetic, don’t allow yourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security just because all seems to be well and then stop seeing to the daily monitoring. You will just never know when things may change, and by then it may be too late to avoid an irreversible injury. Such injuries can lead to an inability to drive, work, or even to look after yourself on a daily basis without care from someone else. No one wants to end up in that position!
Please don’t miss your regular GP check-ups and blood tests and please don’t forget your annual visit to the opticians. Your optician should be advised about your diagnosis of diabetes and should monitor the tiny vessels in your eyes for any early signs of change that need to be acted upon to ensure your eyesight is preserved.
Support for Diabetes
Quite apart from diabetes compensation monies, you may need emotional, practical, or even financial support. If so, we have a web-page with important information for you about where to go. Please click here.
Choosing a solicitor to make a claim for diabetes mismanagement
Do contact our friendly team of specialist lawyers at Medical Solicitors. We conduct most of our Clinical and Medical Negligence claims under ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreements, also known as Conditional Fee Agreements. Our clients do not have to worry about the cost of diabetes compensation claims. You have nothing to lose in speaking to us.