A CANCER patient died waiting for treatment after doctors failed to tell her the disease had returned then delayed referring her to specialists.


NHS Lanarkshire have now apologised to the woman's family after health watchdogs highlighted "serious failings" in her care.

The 54-year-old, who had fought breast cancer years before, died feeling that she had been "written off", according to her family.

The woman visited the A&E department of Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride after suffering breathlessness and abdominal pains.

She was given a chest x-ray and and lumbar spine x-ray and told there was no concern with the results and discharged.

But three weeks later she was still in pain and returned to the hospital.

Her sister asked doctors to re check x-rays.

The patient was then told the lumbar spine x-ray showed the cancer had returned and was advanced having spread to her spine.

An investigator for the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO), who was asked to probe the case by the patient's sister, said in a report: "I am critical that a scan showing a positive result of cancer was entirely missed by the hospital."

Referring the woman as "Ms A", they added: "While Ms A's cancer was diagnosed three weeks later, this was due solely to Ms A's perseverance in seeking treatment for her symptoms."

The watchdog said that if the patient hadn't returned to the hospital of her own accord, the delay would have continued "indefinitely" adding that this was "unreasonable".

The ombudsman's report adds that, after diagnosis, a consultant did not refer the patient to oncology when he said he would, another "significant failing".

The woman was told she would be given an appointment to discuss treatment but this did not happen and "added unnecessarily to the distress that she and her family suffered in the weeks before she died", said the SPSO.

The patient died five weeks after the A&E scan was carried out.

Her sister told the watchdog that the woman had felt "a fraud" for having taken so much time in A&E as she was unaware of her condition.

She said it is too late for the board to apologise to her dead sister but she hopes no other patient has to endure the "nightmare period of time" her sister went through between her illness and death.

Two complaints about the delay in diagnosis and delay in giving the patient an appointment were upheld by the SPSO.

As well as telling the health board to apologise to the patient's family, the watchdog called for an internal enquiry to find out what went wrong and to ensure similar failings don't happen again.

Rosemary Lyness, NHS Lanarkshire's director of nursing, midwifery and Allied Health Professionals said: "We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the patient's sister and her family for failing to provide the level of care she should have received.

"We have fully accepted the recommendations contained within the ombudsman's report.

"We have already undertaken a full review of the complaints process and we will develop an action plan to address the areas highlighted within the report and to ensure that lessons learned are shared across NHS Lanarkshire".