Former soldier sues Peterborough hospital trust for £1.5 million

Peterborough City Hospital. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Peterborough Telegraph -, @peterboroughtel on Twitter,
Peterborough City Hospital. Photo: Rowland Hobson/Peterborough Telegraph -, @peterboroughtel on Twitter,
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A promising soldier’s “loud snoring” triggered a tragic train of events which wrecked his life and led to a £1.5 million pay-out from Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on Friday, 5 December.

Richard Peter Downing, a warrant officer in the Army Air Corps, was determined to deal with his problem and underwent surgery at Stamford Hospital in November 2006.

The operation ‘made no difference’ to his snoring and Mr Downing, now 43, instead fell victim to a virulent post-operative infection, the High Court heard.

Later investigations showed that, tragically, the operation could probably not have cured him of his snoring in any event.

The infection left him with a devastating legacy of reactive arthritis and chronic pain disorder, said top judge, Sir David Eady.

He was unlikely to ever work again and had spent much of the past eight years ‘effectively a prisoner’ in his own home.

Mr Downing, from Suffolk sued Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which managed the hospital where he was infected.

The Trust agreed to compensate him on the basis of 63 per cent liability and the judge today awarded Mr Downing total damages of £1,508,524.

The judge said there was unlikely to be any significant long-term improvement in Mr Downing’s condition.

“I am reluctantly driven to the conclusion that the only realistic prognosis is a pessimistic one”, he added.

“The contrast with his previous personality, physical capacity and positive lifestyle could hardly be greater.

“He and his wife have stoically faced a fundamental reversal of fortunes which would have tested many relationships to destruction.

“But, thanks mainly to Mrs Downing’s strength of character, the family structure remains largely intact”.

Stricken by mobility problems, constant pain and ‘tendency towards depression’, Mr Downing is partially wheelchair-dependent.

Although he hates using what he views as “a contraption”, he has no choice on “bad days” which strike him about once a week.

Mr Downing had had ‘very good prospects’ of further promotion before disaster struck and would probably have made it to the rank of major.

But for what happened, his talents would also have brought success in civilian life after he retired from the army, the judge said.

The payout to Mr Downing includes £93,000 for his pain and suffering, £435,000 for specialist accommodation and more than £340,000 for his future care.

Dr Callum Gardner, consultant physician and deputy medical director, Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust regrets the complications Mr Downing suffered following his procedure in 2006.

“The Trust made a partial admission of liability in this case last year and it proceeded to trial to establish the amount of compensation that was due to Mr Downing to enable him to receive the necessary support for his future care.

“We wish him and his family well for the future.”