Doctor from Northamptonshire had to self-diagnose life-threatening condition after being sent home from hospital

Dr Caroline Clark
Dr Caroline Clark

A consultant who lives in Northamptonshire won a settlement against an NHS hospital after an operation that left her at death’s door.

Dr Caroline Clark, 56, a former KGH consultant radiologist from Brigstock, claims she was discharged too early following major surgery to remove a cancerous neck tumour at Peterborough District Hospital.

Against both her own and a junior doctor’s advice, and despite blood tests showing that her calcium levels were low, she was sent home less than 24 hours after being on the operating table.

Dr Clark, who now suffers post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that she claims was brought on by her ordeal, awoke the next morning with potentially life-threatening seizures and says she knew immediately she was suffering from dangerously low calcium levels in the blood.

She was later taken to Kettering General Hospital where a colleague’s quick actions saw her finally receive life-saving injections of calcium and magnesium and stopped her going into cardiac arrest.

David Thomas, a specialist medical negligence solicitor from Simpson Millar, represented Caroline throughout her claim, which saw Peterborough and Stamford NHS Trust settle the case.

He said: “The serious failings in Caroline’s case nearly cost her life. Had she not been a medical professional and in the unusual position of being able to self-diagnose, it is entirely likely that she would not be around today.

“Had Caroline received the appropriate treatment, she would still be working as a successful NHS consultant today. Instead she had to take early retirement and continues to suffer the stressful effects of nearly dying.”

Immediately after her surgery, Dr Clark says she experienced a lack of post-operative care as staff were forced to focus on looking after elderly patients on the ward.

Now, she is urging politicians to curb both national discharge targets and the threat of fines for failing to hit them and instead focus on patient care and survival rates.

Dr Clark said: “NHS Accident & Emergency performance targets have to be scrapped immediately. None of them are based on evidence of achieving better outcomes for patients.

“Instead, they are costing the NHS millions of pounds which could be better spent on treatment and care.

“The focus of the NHS has shifted from treating patients to simply moving them from one place to another; it is not on their care, not on the desired outcome and not on their well-being.

“I have heard frightening examples from my former colleagues about people being inappropriately discharged and who have died as a result. I could very easily have been one of them.”

Peterborough and Stamford NHS Trust said it has settled the claim but would not go into any detail because of patient confidentiality.