Trust Apologises After Grandad Discharged From Hospital But Not Told Of Cancer

Family Denied Chance To Say Goodbye After Delay In Diagnosis

16.08.2012

A much-loved husband, dad and granddad was denied the opportunity to spend his last few days at home with his family after doctors at The Royal Bolton Hospital failed to tell him his body was riddled with cancer and he had just days to live.

The devastated family of Trevor Roberts, who died aged 68, have received an apology from the hospital trust responsible for his care after the ‘appalling error’ meant he was unable to say goodbye to his loved ones, including his two grandchildren who were abroad on holiday, unaware of how gravely ill he was.

Trevor’s relatives have been working with medical law specialists at Irwin Mitchell to find out why Trevor and his family were not told about his life-limiting condition, despite doctors spotting the signs of extensive cancer in scans 18 days earlier.

The Trust has now admitted that the error was due to a breakdown in communication between staff on two different wards at the Royal Bolton Hospital, who allowed him to be discharged without discussing his scan results. The Trust has reassured Trevor’s family that lessons have been learnt and the error will not happen again.

Irwin Mitchell has now negotiated a four-figure settlement sum with the Royal Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on the family’s behalf after the Trust apologised and admitted responsibility for the poor care Trevor and his family received.

Trevor’s daughter Sharon Taylor, from Astley in Manchester, said: “My dad was a devoted husband, father and grandfather and an important figure in all our lives. The rapid deterioration in his health took us all by surprise and we feel absolutely devastated about losing him so quickly and in such circumstances.

“The Royal Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust made no attempt to contact us about my dad’s condition and the terrible results of the scan after he was discharged, which we are really angry about.

“Because we didn’t know his condition was so grave, my dad’s grandchildren were abroad on holiday in Turkey and were unable to say goodbye before he died. The whole family is heartbroken about that and still coming to terms with it. 

“If action had been taken sooner, my dad could have been given more time with his family and would have had the opportunity to come to terms with his illness, put his affairs in order and say goodbye. We accept the cancer was too severe to treat with surgery or chemotherapy, but if doctors had shared information about his condition earlier he could have also received access to palliative care to make his life more comfortable.

“We accept the trust’s apology and are reassured that staff have changed their processes to ensure other families will not have to go through the same ordeal in future.”

Trevor died just six weeks after first visiting his GP on 30 July 2009 following concerns he had about painful lumps he had developed across his body.

On 1 August 2009, he was admitted to The Royal Bolton Hospital for tests, including a scan, which showed cancer had spread throughout his body.

Despite the shocking diagnosis, neither Trevor nor his family were informed about his condition. Trevor was allowed home on 3 August 2009 but continued to feel unwell and on 16 August he was taken to the accident and emergency department of the Salford Royal Hospital, where a doctor finally broke the devastating news to Trevor that the scans he had previously at the Royal Bolton Hospital showed he had terminal cancer.

Trevor’s wife Margaret and children, Sharon, Martin and Paul, hoped to take Trevor home to spend quality time with him, but they were advised by doctors that he was too frail to survive the eight-mile journey and he died at The Salford Royal Hospital just five days later.

Sarah Sharples, a medical law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, representing the family, said: “Trevor’s wife Margaret, their children and grandchildren are all devastated about his death and wanted to know how someone could be sent home without being told that they are terminally ill.

“The lack of communication between departments is appalling. The trust’s apology has been noted and we hope that staff have taken this on board to ensure that, particularly in cases where patients sadly have little time left, test results are acted on.”

The Bolton NHS Foundation Trust has conducted an internal investigation into Trevor’s care at The Royal Bolton Hospital, which concluded that he should not have been discharged from hospital until the results of his scan had been reviewed by a senior doctor. The investigation also highlighted the need for clinicians to update patient files efficiently and to request updates on tests and scans once they have been carried out.

Trevor’s family received a formal written apology from Lesley Doherty, Chief Executive of The Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, who said the Trust looks at all cases carefully to ensure lessons are learnt and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure similar incidents do not arise again.