Hospital Criticised for Late Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

Posted on: October 27th, 2014 by Editor

A Hertfordshire hospital has been criticised by the Health Ombudsman for failings in its duty of care which resulted in the late diagnosis of breast cancer

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman held an investigation into the standard of care at St Albans Hospital after the condition of a patient – identified only as “Mrs G” – was overlooked and she subsequently developed terminal breast cancer.

Mrs G had originally attended the breast care unit at St Albans Hospital in May 2010, but the hospital failed to conduct the appropriate tests and, when she returned in December 2011, her breast cancer had developed into an inoperable condition – with secondary cancers having developed in her liver and brain.

The forty-one year old single mother of one was forced to give up her job because of her illness, and the Ombudsman´s report into the late diagnosis of breast cancer concluded that – had the breast cancer been detected at the time of her initial referral – Mrs G could have made a full recovery.

The report insisted that the hospital make a “full and sincere apology” to the patient and recommended that the West Hertfordshire NHS Trust – the NHS Trust responsible for healthcare at St Albans Hospital – pay £70,000 compensation for the late diagnosis of breast cancer.

Speaking after report had been released, Health Ombudsman Julie Mellor commented “This is a very sad example of what can go wrong when doctors and trusts don’t carry out the necessary and proper diagnoses and tests, and the terrible impact it can have on someone’s life.”

The West Hertfordshire NHS Trust´s Chief Executive – Samantha Jones – replied by saying “We clearly failed Ms G and I have offered her my personal and sincerest apologies.” Ms Jones added that the NHS Trust had already made the recommended changes and had enhanced the training of doctors dealing with cancer-related referrals.

In December last year, the Trust admitted that it had failed to follow NHS guidelines for monitoring patients referred to them for cancer consultations since November 2010. Instead of organising second appointments for patients who failed to attend their initial appointment – as is required under NHS rules – the NHS Trust had simply discharged them and removed them from their books.

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