Hospital Cancer Diagnosis Delay Led To Death Of Bridgend Mum Of Two

Demand For Lessons To Be Learned After Consultant Claimed Dying Woman’s Illness Was Imaginary

26.03.2010

The family of a Bridgend mother of two who died from an aggressive cancer after a hospital sent her home on three separate occasions, claiming that there was nothing seriously wrong with her, will today (Friday March 26th) receive a substantial six figure out of court compensation settlement.

On one occasion it was even suggested that 23-year-old Lavinia Bletchly was simply imagining that she was ill. A senior consultant told her that she needed psychiatric attention and to get out of her hospital bed and go home, to make room for more urgent cases. Just four weeks later Lavinia died from peritonitis and Malignant Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

However a medical negligence expert from Irwin Mitchell solicitors is concerned that, although the hospital has made a full admission that mistakes were made, no disciplinary action has been taken and the family has received no reassurances that lessons have been learned from this tragedy.

Lavinia Bletchly, who was a full time student at University of Wales Institute Cardiff, where she was studying Textile Design, first became unwell in May 2004, just a few months after the birth of her second child. A number of examinations during the next eight months ruled out gynaecological problems but Lavinia continued to complain of pain in her abdomen and pelvis. In February 2005 a pelvic ultrasound revealed a cyst and an exploratory operation revealed fluid above the liver.

Over the next three weeks Lavinia was admitted on three separate occasions to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend. At one point she was told by a senior consultant that there was no medical reason for the pain she claimed to be in and should instead seek psychiatric attention.

Finally, on 7th March 2005 Lavinia underwent a CT scan leading to further surgery which revealed an extensive malignant tumour had encased her bowel and spread up to her stomach. Despite commencing an urgent programme of chemotherapy, clinicians admitted her prognosis was not good as the cancer was now both aggressive and advanced. Lavinia then suffered a ruptured bowel which caused peritonitis, leading to multi organ failure. Sadly she passed away on 24th March 2005.

Lavinia leaves behind two daughters, Shaila (now aged 9) and Chloe (now aged 6) as well as her partner and the father of both children, Justin Tellem.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust finally admitted liability in July 2009 for failures in Miss Bletchly’s care more than four years after her death. An out of court financial settlement was finally agreed earlier this year. As a large portion compensates Miss Bletchly’s two children for the loss of dependency on their mother, the settlement needed to be approved today (Friday 26th March) by the High Court in Cardiff.

Julie Lewis, a medical negligence expert with Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, represented the family. She explained: “Lavinia died as a result of gross failings by the doctors who were supposed to be caring for her. The fact that she was in such terrible pain and surgical tests had found abnormalities including a cyst and fluid should have rung alarm bells.

“Instead they ignored signs that something was seriously wrong and instead attempted to claim that Lavinia’s symptoms were a figment of her imagination.

“By the time a CT scan finally revealed the true extent of her illness it was too late to stop the spread of cancer but independent experts have confirmed that if Lavinia had received chemotherapy just four weeks earlier, the cancer would have been treatable and she would have survived and had a normal life expectancy.”

Speaking on behalf of the family, Lavinia’s father, Arthur Bletchly, commented: “Justin and I are both extremely angry that the hospital trust took four years to admit liability and even now no-one seems to have been held accountable for what happened.

“From the outset we have demanded to know if disciplinary action would be taken against those who failed Lavinia and were told this would only be considered following an internal review. To date we have received no assurances that this has happened. Neither have we been told whether the consultants involved have been retrained.

“Given the fact that these were senior consultants who were themselves personally responsible for the training of medical students at the hospital, I am extremely concerned that lessons may not have been learned to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future and I therefore intend to refer the clinicians involved to the General Medical Council.”