Woman’s bid to sue NHS over mum’s death hits funding blow

Legal aid withdrawn for woman who believes NHS negligence caused her mother's death.

A woman suing a heath board over her mother’s death has been left heartbroken after losing her legal funding.

Lorraine Dickson died after contracting a flesh-eating bug at Wishaw General Hospital and her family believe a catalogue of errors was to blame.

Her daughter Sharon Boyle, 47, now fears she’ll never have her day in court after her legal aid was withdrawn.

Ms Boyle must prove the cause of her mum’s death to get funding, but said NHS Lanarkshire blocked her from gathering vital witness statements – a claim the health board refutes.

She said: “For eight years I’ve fought for this and to have this happen and legal aid taken away at the last minute is just heartbreaking. 

“Right from the beginning, I was told this is a kind of David and Goliath fight that I would have. I’m angry at this point in time that it looks like Goliath has won.”

Ms Dickson, who had breast cancer, was admitted to hospital in September 2011 to have fluid removed from her lungs.

But the 72-year-old died the next month after developing e-coli, which then progressed to necrotising fasciitis – a deadly bacterial infection which rapidly destroys soft tissues.

Ms Boyle’s case rests on a claim her mum’s drainage tube was left in for four days rather than six hours – and that it was reinserted after it fell on the bathroom floor. 

She said: “I wasn’t there at the time when the drain fell out but I was there within 20 minutes of it happening and I saw the demise in my mum. I was told she wouldn’t survive a day. She survived ten days. 

“I was told by a consultant, and this has been agreed in minutes of a meeting we had afterwards. He said ‘we have caused this and we can’t rectify it’.”

The health ombudsman has already upheld a complaint about the grandmother’s care, and this month the details were due to be heard at Hamilton Sheriff Court.

However, without vital witness statements, Ms Boyle’s legal aid has been withdrawn, bringing the case to a grinding halt.

She said: “All along all I wanted was my day in court but because I haven’t got their witness statements, I basically haven’t got a case anymore and so now my legal aid has stopped.

“I have had to try and prove everything. They have asked me if I had telephone conversations and text messages from my mum. 

“I was given a bag of her clothes at the time with the drain fluid all over her clothes in a clinical waste bag. Am I meant to keep this for eight years? Who would keep this for eight years?”

NHS Lanarkshire rejected Ms Boyle’s reasoning for the legal aid being withdrawn.

The health board’s secretary Paul Cannon said:  “The board cooperated with Mrs Boyle in allowed her solicitor access to employees who are relevant witnesses.

“Lanarkshire health board has endeavoured to fully cooperate with Mrs Boyle and her solicitor throughout the entire process from the complaints stage and through the litigation to date.”

Ms Boyle has received £9000 in legal funding so far, and now must seek fresh advice to prepare for a scheduled court date in March.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said: “There are a number of eligibility tests that must be met for legal aid to be granted and to continue in a case.

“When these are no longer met the legislation requires us to withdraw legal aid.”

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