A University Hospital Lewisham patient suffered liver and kidney damage after her blood samples were left unchecked by a registrar who went on holiday.

The failure meant the 53-year-old patient’s adverse reaction to Atorvastatin, a medication she had been prescribed previously following a ‘mini-stroke’, was not spotted.

The medical registrar went on two weeks’ annual leave without handing over responsibility for checking the samples, falsely marking them as reviewed remotely on the hospital’s system.

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The patient, who has asked not to be named, took legal action to ensure the mistake was not "swept under the carpet" and "went to the people at the top".

She said: “I love the NHS. It has looked after me all my life from being born at just 26 weeks and one of my sisters worked in the NHS too, so I thought long and hard about whether I should take legal action.

“However, I wanted to make sure that what had happened to me was properly investigated and that it reached the top of the organisation. I didn’t want it to be brushed under the carpet as it had been so dangerous.

“My sister said that without making a legal claim my concerns and voice would not be heard, and by taking the route I did there would be a full investigation. It has resulted in changes being made and I am pleased about that.

“It really was appalling that my bloods were not checked because somebody had gone off on holiday. They took about 8 blood samples from me and then never checked them at all.

“I want people to be aware of what statins can do if you have a reaction like I did and are left on them. I was so weak, had no appetite, was full even if I ate a tiny amount and had no energy at all. My sisters said I didn’t realise at the time just how ill I was. They were really worried about me.

“I can remember thinking I’ve got too much to live for to die. That in itself shows how worried I was about how ill I’d become.”

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The patient had attended the outpatient stroke clinic suffering from a range of symptoms including weakness, heartburn, joint pains, fatigue, headache and loss of appetite.

She had blood samples taken, the results of which showed ‘red flag’ warnings of the damage being caused.

The patient became increasingly unwell due to her liver function deteriorating, suffering an acute kidney injury.

She was admitted to hospital again and diagnosed with severe muscle breakdown, requiring dialysis treatment, 22 days after her blood tests had been taken.

She was then finally taken off the statins and placed on intravenous fluids.

It was only when attending another appointment at the stroke clinic a further two months later, that a consultant checked her records and discovered her bloods had never been checked and a ‘serious incident' was logged.

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Legal action was taken against the Trust through specialists Hudgell Solicitors, alleging that had amounted to negligence.

The Trust, which runs the hospital, admitted liability and breaching its duty of care.

It offered a £23,000 out of court damages settlement to the patient, who thankfully suffered no long term harm.

An internal investigation identified there was no formal process in place for one clinician to transfer the responsibility for receiving and acting upon blood test results to another.

It said it was often difficult in such a busy department, and therefore ‘relied on the goodwill of colleagues’.

Following the incident and investigation the department reduced the clinic workload for medical registrars to ensure they carry out ‘significantly fewer’ clinics, whilst clinic letters are no longer to be signed off remotely unless they also have access to the test results.