The NHS Failed Both My Parents, Says Grieving Daughter

Daughter Makes Clinical Negligence Claim

27.05.2010

A devastated North East woman who lost both her parents to cancer in the space of two years says the NHS has ‘failed her entire family’.

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust recently admitted it was at fault for failing to correctly diagnose Juliette Bates’ bowel cancer in 2004 – had the diagnosis been made, it is likely she could have been treated successfully.

Instead she suffered for four years before dying in February 2008, leaving her grieving husband Robin to mount a legal challenge with clinical negligence specialists at Irwin Mitchell to expose the medical mistakes that were made.

However, this spring’s admission of liability from the NHS Trust arrived too late to provide any closure for Mr Bates, who died of lung cancer in January 2010.

Angela Kirtley, clinical negligence specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said the admission of liability from the Trust was a major step forward as part of the claim she was investigating on behalf of Mr and Mrs Bates’ daughter, Lisa Ravenscroft.

Angela said: “Mrs Bates’ case is very sad and has been extremely distressing for her family – they have been let down by the NHS on two counts, firstly in the way that Mrs Bates’ illness was handled, and then their delay in providing an admission of liability and an apology from the Trust before he died.”

Mrs Ravenscroft said the ordeal she and her parents went through has had a shattering effect on her entire family. She has continued the legal action started by her father in a bid to raise awareness of what she describes as a need for ‘vastly improved hospital standards.’

Mrs Ravenscroft said: “My mother not only died unnecessarily, but she endured four years of unimaginable pain and discomfort. She first noticed symptoms in 2000 and made repeated visits to hospital and to her GP but was repeatedly told nothing was wrong.

“Even as the years passed and her symptoms worsened – she couldn’t eat, lost weight and suffered severe cramps – she was simply discharged with no further investigations.

“At one point, even as late as 2006 shortly before the cancer was finally diagnosed, a Gastroenterologist dismissed her problems as constipation and suggested she tried to put on weight. I think to dismiss an elderly lady’s complaints out of hand like that showed a shocking lack of respect.

“The cancer diagnosis represented our worst fears but, when it came, was still a huge shock – it was the effect it had on my father that was possibly most heartbreaking.”

“It left him utterly shattered and, following his own diagnosis with lung cancer in 2007, he became depressed. His own condition deteriorated rapidly and although he fought with the very last of his energy to see the NHS Trust own up its mistakes, the admission came too late for him, too.”

Angela Kirtley said the claim focused on a barium enema – an investigative medical procedure that involves an x-ray of the bowel – performed on Mrs Bates in 2004. The results of this enema were not correctly interpreted and her cancer continued to go unnoticed until 2006 following a series of further examinations.

She added: “Our expert evidence suggested that a large tumour was not picked up following the barium enema in August 2004.  Had it been detected treatment would almost certainly have been successful and Mrs Bates would most probably have been alive today.

“Patient safety is a priority and the NHS must work to improve standards and reduce the number of errors made.

“These errors have devastating effects and it is extremely frustrating that many of them are preventable.  Errors do happen but hospitals need to work to ensure that the number of mistakes decrease – not increase.”