NHS nurse left with life-changing shoulder injury

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A Thompsons’ client, Mr Stephen Rooney, sustained an avoidable workplace injury while employed as an anaesthetic nurse for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

After his union, Unison, referred him to us, our personal injury solicitors sought compensation from his employer on his behalf.

The background

At the time of his workplace accident, Mr Rooney worked at Gartnavel General Hospital. His role as an anaesthetic nurse involved a lot of physical work, including moving patients on trolleys while they were under anaesthesia and moving and operating anaesthetic equipment.

On the morning of 22 September 2017, the day he sustained his injury at work, Mr Rooney’s co-ordinator asked him to clear out the equipment in an operating theatre so the Estates Department could carry out renovation work.

He went to the theatre’s anaesthetic room and attempted to remove the anaesthetic machine, which was connected to several different pipes that hung from the ceiling. These pipes were for delivering oxygen, nitrous oxide, and medical air. It was usually very easy to connect and disconnect them. But on this day, with this particular machine, Mr Rooney had great difficulty detaching the nitrous oxide pipe, which seemed to be locked in place.

He tried several times to remove the pipe, twisting the connection as much as he could, but his efforts were to no avail, and he was left with friction burns on his hands. He asked a few colleagues for help, but no one could disconnect the machine from the ceiling pipe. Upon trying one last time, Mr Rooney felt a popping sensation in his left shoulder, followed by instant pain. Believing that he had only pulled a muscle, he took pain relief medication and continued with his shift.

The consequences

Mr Rooney continued to feel severe pain in his shoulder and informed his employer that he could not attend work the next day. His GP diagnosed a potential rotator cuff injury or shoulder impingement injury but was not sure of the extent of the damage. He was signed off work.

His shoulder injury led to further difficulties. He developed lateral epicondylitis in his wrist and elbow because his muscles were overcompensating for the weakness in his shoulder, and he had to wear a wrist brace for many months.

Before the accident, Mr Rooney suffered from osteoarthritis in his left hip and back. His lack of movement and exercise following his shoulder injury caused this condition to worsen, with the pain spreading to his right hip.

The pain also ruined his enjoyment of hobbies and made daily living difficult. Not only could he no longer attend the gym, ride his bike, or play football once a week, but he also couldn’t drive, and he needed assistance around the house.

The settlement

We intimated a personal injury compensation claim to Mr Rooney’s employer. As we were approaching the end of the triennium (the three-year time limit for submitting a personal injury claim) and had not received important information from one of our experts, we raised protective proceedings in the All-Scotland Personal Injury Court.

We gathered plenty of evidence for this case. Firstly, we incident reports confirming that the nitrous oxide pipe could not be removed even after several strenuous attempts by multiple members of staff. A statement from Mr Rooney’s colleague confirmed how difficult a task disconnecting the pipe was.

Furthermore, we obtained a report from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, who advised us that Mr Rooney had suffered from a traumatic frozen shoulder and his symptoms were permanent. Because of the amount of manual handling involved in Mr Rooney’s role as an anaesthetic nurse, the consultant advised that it was not safe for him to return to work.

Additionally, a report from a consultant psychologist confirmed that Mr Rooney was suffering from a depressive disorder due to the injury and its aftermath. We also instructed a pensions expert to calculate Mr Rooney’s past and future loss of earnings, as well as his future employability.

With all this evidence, we believed we had a very strong case and could claim a substantial amount. However, the defenders initially tendered an offer of only £7,000. We did not believe this sum was remotely sufficient. The case progressed to the pre-trial meeting, where the defenders maintained their offer of £7,000. Mr Rooney instructed us to reject this offer and proceed to proof.

Before the case proceeded to the next stage, there was an important development: we discovered that an expert working for the defenders had misinterpreted records. Following this information, the defenders made an offer of £50,000.

Although this was a considerable improvement, we advised Mr Rooney that this amount was still likely to be lower than what a court would award, so we negotiated for a higher settlement. We eventually received an offer of £75,000. Following a consultation with Mr Rooney, we accepted the offer.

The case was settled on 4 October 2022.

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