A Rochester man has secured substantial damages from the Medway NHS Foundation Trust after part of his left leg had to be amputated following his admission to hospital with an infection in his little toe.

Ian Watts has been left severely disabled and reliant on his wife – who has multiple sclerosis – to care for him. The Trust agreed to pay him £250,000 shortly before the case went to court.

Mr Watts, a diabetic, says that the hospital’s failure to properly control his diabetes resulted in the loss of the leg below the knee. His right leg also developed an infection as a result of a badly applied pressure stocking and doctors considered amputating it as well.

He was admitted to Medway hospital in July 2004 after months of worsening pain. His initially sore toe had developed into an ulcer which had not improved despite regular treatment by his GP and the practice nurses. The hospital said the only treatment was to amputate the toe.

Leg below the knee was taken off

Amputation did not work as severe pain then developed in Mr Watt’s left foot. Its condition deteriorated and so his leg below the knee was taken off.

On his way to the operating theatre his blood sugar levels had been allowed to fall so low that he lost consciousness and had to be brought round.

While Mr Watts was bedridden after the operation he noted that there appeared to be a “state of disarray” on the ward and that nurses would sometimes nearly give him the wrong medication.

A pressure stocking was applied so tightly to his right leg that a blood blister developed. Nurses would periodically check the stump of the left leg but no examination was made of the right.

After being discharged, an ulcer developed on his right foot and he was admitted to East Grinstead hospital and told that it would have to be amputated. Fortunately a second opinion was sought and a nine hour operation saved the foot. But the prospect of losing the right leg too had been extremely distressing for Mr Watts.

Devastated at losing left leg

He said: “I was devastated at losing my left leg and concerned about the impact this would have on my future. I was absolutely terrified of losing my right leg too. It was a physically and psychologically exhausting time and I was extremely depressed and distraught at the treatment I had received. I just wanted to die. I couldn’t face living without legs.”

Mr Watts, who was a part time butcher before the amputation and had other work, now uses a prosthesis and requires a lot of help around the home. His house has been converted to allow wheelchair access.

“The amputation has had a huge impact on the quality of my life and that of my wife Susan. She has to help me on a day to day basis with general care which is difficult for her because of her MS. I used to enjoy golf and birdwatching but am now unable to manage the walking.”

Kashmir Uppal of clinical negligence specialists Thompsons Solicitors said: “Medway NHS Trust never admitted liability for what we consider to have been a series of failures that led to the loss of one leg and the near loss of the other. They also refused to settle the case until a few months before the trial, therefore forcing Mr and Mrs Watts to go through a stressful litigation process. However the compensation we have secured represents the money he will need to pay for his future care and assistance, as well as his loss of earnings and the costs he has already incurred in having his house adapted.”

This news story was also published Kent News.