Simon was admitted to East Surrey hospital in March 2020 with Covid. He spent two weeks on a Covid ward and was thought to be recovering well. On the night before he was due to leave hospital, he unexpectedly developed delirium with neurological symptoms, including seizures.
Simon experienced his first seizure at around 8pm, which resolved by the time the Medical Emergency Team arrived, but he was in a very poor state. The doctors appeared anxious about examining him because he had had Covid. They did note he had a GCS of 4, which was very concerning and should have prompted transfer to ICU or at least intubation and ventilation. Instead, they did nothing.
The nurses were instructed to conduct hourly observations and to bleep the medical Registrar if any further seizures occurred. The plan was to send him to ICU if that happened. The two nurses on call that night said later that they had not been trained to deal with a patient having seizures.
Simon suffered his second seizure at 8.40pm, which lasted more than 10 minutes. He was given Benzodiazepines but not Keppra, an anti-epileptic drug used to treat seizures, and it was not acknowledged that this was his second seizure – which would have required a much more serious response. He was not sent to ICU, as he should have been. He was not monitored and the medical team failed to recognise the severity of his illness. He never regained consciousness.
At 3.30am the following morning, Simon suffered a third severe seizure. The nurse called the medical Registrar who simply recorded that Simon was somewhat responsive. The seizure stopped and again the severity of his condition was ignored. ICU care was not discussed again despite the earlier plan.
Simon suffered two further seizures at 4.10am and at 5am, but it seems that no one reacted. He died at 6.32am.
Following his death and a subsequent inquest, the Trust accepted that there were shortcomings in the management of Simon's care, but denied liability. The Trust noted that his death occurred during the early stages of the Covid epidemic and sought to argue that this somehow excused the poor level of care he received. It further argued that alternative management would not have avoided Simon's death and that he would have died of Covid complications in any event.
Jonathan was instructed by Simon's wife and his two teenage children. He did not accept the Trust's suggestion that Covid excused the failures and argued that even during that challenging time, patients had a right to a basic level of care for common hospital problems such as seizures.
He instructed a consultant intensivist and a neuropathologist who were very critical of the care provided. Crucially, they concluded that Simon's seizures were not directly caused by Covid but instead arose from the recovery from critical illness. They supported the argument that with proper treatment, Simon would have had an 80 per cent chance of surviving his seizures.
The Trust refused to accept this and argued that even if he had survived, he would have had significant brain damage. After much negotiation, Jonathan was able to agree a £350,000 settlement for Simon's wife and children to provide some financial support following the loss of Simon.
After the case concluded, Simon's family said:
'Thank the lord above that we were recommended Jonathan Zimmern at fieldfisher to help us with this ordeal and during troubled times. From the days after my husband's death, to inquest and to the closure and success of our case, Jonathan and his team have been absolutely wonderful.'
'Jonathan’s legal knowledge and instinct are amazing, always professional, positive and unbelievably supportive during sad and challenging times. I have been overwhelmed that so much support has been shown to myself and my beautiful boys.'
'Thank you so much to you all at fieldfisher. They really are angels on Earth.'
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