British composer left wheelchair bound after NHS hospital misdiagnoses fractured spine as urine infection
Composer said he was devastated that he can't run around with his grandchildren



08:59 GMT, 10 May 2012

A critically-acclaimed British composer has been left wheelchair bound after a hospital misdiagnosed his fractured spine.

Andrew Downes, from Birmingham, has won his negligence case against The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.

Medical staff at the Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley failed to diagnose a fractured back after the 61-year-old suffered a fall at home in October 2009.

Andrew Downes

Andrew Downes after his injury

Composer Mr Downes, pictured right in a wheelchair, said he was terrified after he woke up with no feeling in his legs

He was given morphine after complaining of severe back pain but the hospital diagnosed a urine infection and failed to send him for an X-ray which would have highlighted his fractured spine.

As a result of the delay he lost all feeling in both legs after developing a complete spinal cord injury, lawyers from Irwin Mitchell, representing Mr Downes, said.

Mr Downes who
has travelled around the world attending performances of his
compositions said: 'The back pain was far worse than anything I'd experienced before and I knew it definitely wasn't a urine infection.

'When I was asked to walk around it made the pain excruciating, I knew something wasn't right.

'I was put on morphine for the pain which left me disorientated and drifting in and out of consciousness and one time I woke up and I had lost all feeling in my legs.

'It was a terrifying feeling. To be walking around one day, and then unable to move little more than 24 hours later was beyond belief.'

Mr Downes before his injury: He will now require medical attention for life

Mr Downes before his injury: He will now require medical attention for life

He went back to work just 10 months after the fall, and is now hosting a 10 year anniversary concert in aid of Paraplegic Sports in Birmingham in October but said he is devastated he cannot run around and play with his three young grandchildren.

He added: 'Now that the trust has admitted their mistakes I just hope they take note and improve their care in future. I wouldn't want anyone to experience what I am going through.'

The married father-of-two will require a lifetime of care and help to live as independently as possible through his continued rehabilitation.

He has joined experts from Irwin Mitchell in calling on Dudley Group Of Hospitals NHS Trust to prevent other patients receiving the same substandard level of care after they admitted responsibility for his injuries.

He had suffered from inflammatory back pain and a fused spine for many years, but had refused to let it hold him back in a highly successful career which saw him create 17 CDs, perform for royalty and be awarded a Professorship in Composition and Creative Studies at the Birmingham Conservatoire.

Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley where Mr Downes was misdiagnosed with a urine infection

Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley where Mr Downes was misdiagnosed with a urine infection

Irwin Mitchell lawyers said doctors failed to take into consideration the back condition which left him at high risk of injuring his spine and found a catalogue of errors by the hospital.

These included: diagnosing a urine infection without thorough tests; failing to examine his back sufficiently through tests; failing to send him for an X-ray which would have highlighted the damage; and failing to ensure he was kept completely still, instead taking him for painful walks round the ward which were likely to have caused more damage.

It was only when he had lost all movement and feeling in his legs that he was taken for scans which highlighted the fractures to his spine that caused irreparable damage.

Timothy Deeming, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell's Birmingham office, said: 'Whilst Andrew appreciates the trust's admissions and feels he has gained some justice, we hope that they will learn from their mistakes.

'Patient safety has to be the number one priority for any NHS trust and we hope the substandard level of care he received will not be repeated in the future.

'We are now working with Andrew to ensure that he receives the necessary funds and support to provide him with the life-long rehabilitation he now requires to live as independently as possible.'