There has been a rise in compensation claims regarding “superbug” infections in recent years, mainly by hospital patients or nursing home residents who require day-to-day medical attention and assistance. Where medical services fall below professional standards, a patient can be left at risk of exposure to bacterial infection, with the term “superbug” alluding to certain bacteria that are resistant to treatment with common antibiotics.
In addition to recovery from infection, obtaining compensation for negligent medical practice can be a complex and difficult process. In most cases, a claim must be brought within three years from the date the infection was contracted. At Healys, a dedicated team of medical negligence solicitors, with many years’ combined experience, will ensure the recovery of both your health and financial compensation are achieved to the maximum extent possible.
There are three common types of superbug: MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), MSSA (Methicillin-Sensitive Staphylococcus Aureus), C. Difficile (Clostridium Difficile), in addition to a fourth less common type: Necrotising Fasciitis.
MRSA is an infection caused by a very common bacterium, staphylococcus aureus, known in short as “staph”. This bacterium is carried harmlessly on around 30% of the population, and cultivates primarily in a person’s nose and on their skin. However, if the bacteria come into contact with an open cut or wound, it can lead to conditions ranging from minor skin problems to more serious internal organ damage. While not typically life threatening, the bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, including methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin and oxacillin, and are therefore difficult to treat once infection occurs.
MSSA is a strain of staphylococcus aureus that is susceptible to methicillin treatment.
MRSA and MSSA are spread through skin contact with someone who has the bacteria on their person, or through contact with objects, such as medical equipment, that have been exposed to the bacteria. People with compromised immune systems, such as hospital patients and nursing home residents, are particularly susceptible to infection.
Both MRSA and MSSA can be carried without symptoms, but either bacterium can be identified through screening prior to medical procedures being carried out. Screening can be as straightforward as obtaining a nasal swab for laboratory testing.
MRSA is treatable by administering specialised antibiotics. As its name provides, MSSA can be treated with methicillin.
Similar to MRSA and MSSA, C. Difficile is an infection caused by a very common bacterium, Clostridium Difficile, which primarily exists without symptoms in a person’s lower gastric system. The bacterium is spread through person-to-person contact, and is preventable through maintenance of personal hygiene and sterilising medical equipment.
Individuals at risk of infection include older persons, people suffering from certain types of cancer and those with inflammatory bowel disease. When a patient receives antibiotic treatment, this too can lead to infection, as the treatment can upset the natural balance of bacterial cultures in the human body.
The symptoms of C. Difficile include diarrhoea, fever, abdominal cramping, and in serious cases, blood can be found in a person’s stool. If left untreated, an infection may result in toxic megacolon or bowel perforation, with both developments being life threatening. An infection can be detected through obtaining a stool sample for laboratory testing.
The primary method of treatment for a C. Difficile infection is a targeted administration of antibiotics.
Comparatively less common than the above categories of superbug, Necrotising Fasciitis is a flesh eating bacterial infection that attacks the body’s soft tissues. It develops upon entering a cut or break in the skin, where the bacteria release a poisonous chemical that continually damages nearby tissue. Left unchecked, the surrounding tissue will die; an occurrence termed “tissue necrosis” or more commonly known as gangrene. Dead tissue cannot be repaired and must be surgically removed.
The symptoms of Necrotising Fasciitis include a heated rash at the site of infection, severe pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is detectible through visible symptoms or tissue screening for the bacteria. If the infection has spread internally, an X-ray, CT scan or MRI may be required to determine what damage may have occurred.
Early detection of infection is paramount, as the longer the infection is left untreated the more likely that removal of large amounts of tissue, and in some case limbs or internal organs, will be necessary. A Necrotising Fasciitis infection can be treated through antibiotics, surgery and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. As with other types of superbug, the existence of bacteria is preventable through maintaining hygiene and sterilising equipment.
Doctors and healthcare professionals are subject to a legal duty to uphold patient safety and avoid preventable infections. Where standards of medical care have fallen short of this duty, resulting in a patient contracting any of the above infections and experiencing harm, financial compensation can be achieved by bringing a legal claim. Compensation can be awarded for:
In most cases, a patient will have three years from the date of treatment to bring legal action, and so it is important to seek legal advice as soon as symptoms of infection arise.
At Healys, our medical negligence specialists will advise as to whether you may have viable grounds for compensation. Bringing a claim against a healthcare provider, such as the NHS, can be a complicated and daunting process – and the same can be said for claims against a private or public care home. Our team members have an excellent track record of ensuring such claims achieve a satisfactory outcome. Although a legal process can take time, we take extra care in understanding our client’s experience, emotional concerns and what sort of redress they may be seeking, from the first point of contact through to the conclusion of their case.
Healys places clients’ health rehabilitation on equal footing with obtaining financial recovery. We provide not only specialised legal advice, upon visitation to our clients’ homes or hospital beds, but will additionally assist in securing funding for interim treatment. Furthermore, Healys operates on a “no win, no fee” basis, which alleviates our clients’ financial concerns and helps them focus on the road to recovery.
30th September 2019
Healys LLP has again been recognised as a leading firm in the latest edition of the Legal 500. This year, 4 practise areas and 3 individual lawyers have been recommended.
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