Blood transfusion negligence claims

Updated: October 8, 2018

Introduction

Around 3 million blood transfusions take place every year in the UK.

Blood transfusions rarely involve blood being transfused "whole" from one person to another; instead donated blood is generally separated into red cells (the most common transfusion), platelets and plasma. Each of these types of transfusion may be used to treat different conditions.

Blood transfusions are generally very safe procedures and rarely result in clinical negligence claims.

However, if any patient has developed illness or sustained a physical or psychological injury as the result of a negligent transfusion, it may be possible to make a claim.

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Do I have a blood transfusion negligence claim?

If you have suffered a blood transfusion negligence injury in the last three years (longer if children were involved) and someone else was to blame, then we can help you make a compensation claim.

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Why are transfusions needed?

Although usually associated with replacing lost blood after a severe accident, major surgery or childbirth, blood transfusions may be necessary to treat patients who are severely anaemic or who have blood disorders such as sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia.

Patients with very low levels of platelets in their blood (thrombocytopenia) may require a platelet infusion. Conditions that may cause thrombocytopenia include cancers - such as leukaemia or lymphoma; chemotherapy or bone marrow transplantation; chronic liver disease or cirrhosis; sepsis or severe infection.

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What might go wrong with the procedure?

The UK has one of the safest blood supply chains in the world, with healthcare staff generally conducting their work using the safest and highest quality transfusion practices.

However, as with all procedures, mistakes may be made, which may have serious consequences for the patient.

Injuries resulting in compensation claims include:

  • A patient receiving contaminated blood
  • A patient receiving the wrong type of blood
  • Fluid overload

Contaminated Blood

Prior to donating, all potential blood donors are screened for risk of exposure to infection and all blood is subsequently laboratory tested for blood borne infections - including HIV, Hepatitis B and C - before being allowed into the system.

Donated blood must be kept sterile to prevent bacterial contamination developing. Platelet donations are particularly vulnerable to contamination as they need to be stored at room temperature.

A person receiving a transfusion of contaminated blood may develop symptoms of blood poisoning (sepsis).

If during the screening processes an infection is overlooked and a recipient contracts the infection through a blood transfusion it may be possible to bring a claim for tainted blood negligence.

The wrong blood type

To prevent patients being given the wrong type of blood, the recipient's blood must be tested immediately before transfusion takes place. A wristband showing the patient's blood type must also be checked before each new bag of blood is transfused.

Other mistakes that may be made during the transfusion process include blood being incorrectly labelled at the laboratory, or the patient being wrongly identified.

If a patient is given the wrong blood his immune system may react by attacking the blood cells. This is known as a haemolytic transfusion reaction (HTR).

HTRs may happen during or soon after transfusion, or may be delayed, happening a few days to a week after transfusion.

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Back pain
  • Bloody urine
  • Chills
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Fever
  • Flank pain
  • Flushing of the skin

Complications, which may have serious consequences for the recipient may include:

  • Acute kidney failure
  • Anaemia
  • Lung problems
  • Shock

As the list of "never events" published by the NHS in March 2015 includes all ABO-incompatible transfusions (all components), being given the wrong type of blood may be considered a result of medical negligence.

Fluid overload

In 2013 there were 34 cases of fluid overload due to blood transfusion reported in the UK. Occasionally, too much blood is transfused into the body in too short a time for the body to properly cope with it.

The excess fluid can result in the heart being unable to pump enough blood around the body (heart failure).

Too much fluid may cause swelling throughout the body or difficulty breathing.

More common in people who are elderly or frail, have serious health conditions such as heart disease or who have a lower body weight, fluid overload can be avoided by the recipient receiving the transfusion more slowly. They must be closely monitored.

A patient sustaining fluid overload through a transfusion being administered too quickly may be able to claim for clinical negligence.

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No Win, No Fee arrangements for blood transfusion compensation claims

A No Win, No Fee compensation claim starts with the Claimant signing up to, with their chosen solicitor, a CFA (or Conditional Fee Agreement).

Your CFA defines a contract between your lawyer and you. It sets out the service your solicitor provides and the success fee that will be taken from your compensation award once they win the case.

There will be absolutely no hidden fees working with a Quittance personal injury lawyer. You can prioritise your rest and recovery, knowing that there will be nothing to pay if the claim is not successful.

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How much compensation can I claim for blood transfusion negligence?

The amount of compensation you will receive depends on a number of factors. Our medical negligence compensation calculator provides an accurate estimate of your likely compensation.

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Meet our team

The national panel of Quittance solicitors help injured people with all types of clinical negligence claims, from relatively minor claims to life-changing injuries. Our lawyers are chosen on the basis of their track record in recovering compensation and their specialist knowledge.

Meet more of the Quittance team: click here.

Kevin Walker Serious Injury Panel Solicitor
Carol Cook Clinical Negligence Panel Solicitor
Lee Raynor Clinical Negligence Panel Solicitor
Paul Carvis, Personal injury solicitor

About the author

Paul is a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel, a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, and has served as a Deputy District Judge, giving him a uniquely broad understanding of the claims process.

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