The NHS has apologised to a man left crippled after doctors failed to spot a broken neck for three years – and even told him to take up TAI CHI.
Ex-window cleaner Malcolm Hewer, 66, fell from the top of a ladder outside a nursing home in September 2010.
He landed on his head and was knocked out, fracturing his neck, injuring his back and crushing his left wrist.
He was rushed to hospital complaining of pain in his neck and tingling all down his right arm and legs.
But doctors merely plastered up his smashed left wrist and sent him home in agony.
Malcolm spent months protesting that he was in constant pain and at one point was sent to tai chi classes.
After a catalogue of lost scans and delayed appointments doctors finally spotted the crushed bones in his neck three years late.
He then had to wait another TWO YEARS before an operation on his neck but he says his life has been ruined.
He is now unable to stand for more than a short time, uses a stick, can’t turn his head and has constant excruciating pain in his legs.
The North Bristol NHS Trust has apologised to him following a damning report into their failings in his care.
Malcolm, of Whitchurch, Bristol, said the apology was too little, too late.
He said: “My quality of life is not the same.
“I’m in a lot of pain and can’t really use my right hand. I’ve also got a wheelchair but I try not to use it.
“These apologies, admissions and action plans don’t mean a thing to me.”
Two weeks after first going to hospital doctors told him his wrist was more damaged than they first thought and he needed an emergency operation.
That was delayed five days – and what followed was three years of poor communication, delayed follow-up appointments and wrong courses of action.
At one point Malcolm went for a CT scan after repeatedly complaining of prolonged severe pain – only to find out months later the hospital lost the scans.
Three years after the fall doctors decided he needed an operation on his neck – but it did not happen for two more years after they failed to make follow-up appointments.
It was not until December 2015 that he had an op to insert a cage into his neck to support his crushed bones but he says that has been little help.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman upheld his complaint of injustice for the way that he was made to wait five years for the neck operation.
But they said it was so long since the accident it was impossible to prove a direct link between it and his health conditions.
It clears the Trust of causing his current health problems by failing to diagnose his fractured neck sooner – because doctors diagnosed him with the degenerative condition neuropathy, which may have initially led to his fall.
The report suggests that neuropathy is the most likely cause of his current condition – stating that if neuropathy was brought on by the fall alone, it would have cleared up within months.
Malcolm added: “I didn’t want to sit around talking about my pain – I wanted my injuries to be properly investigated.
“With all the missed opportunities and all the chasing-up of follow-up appointments, scans, operation dates and so on, I felt like a can being kicked down the road.
“From the day I was told I could go home after the operation on my wrist, no-one explained what was going on – even when I was still telling them I’d injured my neck.
“At one point, one surgeon said to me that it was as if the 20 things that sometimes go wrong for 20 different people, all 20 happened to one person – me.”
His local MP Karin Smyth supported him as he took his case to the Ombudsman.
She said: “Staff in our NHS do a magnificent job in very challenging circumstances.
“But it is important that when things go wrong they are properly investigated and that practice is improved for others as a result.
“Mr Hewer’s tenacity in pursuing his concerns has now rightly resulted in a full apology from North Bristol NHS Trust.”
Trust chief executive Andrea Young said: “We are sorry that Mr Hewer has gone through this experience.
“Following the findings in the Ombudsman report, we sent Mr Hewer a written apology in August.
“The Ombudsman gave us three months from July 5th to produce an action plan to ensure lessons are learnt.
“Our intention is that this case will lead to improvement in our service.”