Compensation awards to patients let down by the NHS are commonplace, but it is sometimes medical professionals themselves who suffer injury. In a recent case, a dietician who was infected by a rare strain of tuberculosis in the hospital where she worked achieved a compensation settlement.
The woman contracted the Beijing strain – which only four other patients in the UK suffered from at the time – because the department where she worked was close to another in which TB patients were treated. Hygiene procedures had failed to stop the spread of the infection and the trust that ran the hospital admitted liability. However, it disputed the amount of compensation due to her.
Ruling on the case, the court noted that, before her condition was diagnosed, she unwittingly passed on the disease to her father, her lodger, two patients and two colleagues. Although they had all been successfully treated, the knowledge that she had infected others added to her anxiety. Stricken by fatigue and depression, she lost so much weight that her dress size dropped from a size ten to a size six.
Although she tried to get back to work after undergoing nine months of treatment, she was unable to cope and eventually resigned her post. It was six years before her depression had lifted to the point where she was capable of part-time work.
The judge awarded her compensation of more than £120,000.