GMC Suspends GP After Critical Failings In Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Mum’s Life Expectancy Greatly Reduced After Delays In Treatment

21.03.2012

A mother-of-two who believes her breast cancer spread undetected for over a year despite visiting her GP surgery on nine separate occasions has welcomed the General Medical Council’s decision to hand down a four month suspension against one of the doctors she considers was responsible for the critical delays in diagnosing her condition.

Emma Southall, 33, told the GMC panel that she had seen her GP, Dr Hanna at Oldbury Medical Practice, 3 times complaining of a lump in her breast but no examination was undertaken nor referral made.

Now the learning support assistant from Smethwick in the West Midlands has called on Medical Law and Patients Rights experts at Irwin Mitchell to help with her battle for justice, with the lawyers now calling for improvements to be made within the diagnosis process after Emma was left feeling like she was ‘imagining’ her symptoms.

By the time she was correctly diagnosed, a year after she recalls she first visited the GP surgery complaining of a breast lump, she was given the awful news that she had advanced breast cancer which had also spread to her neck and subsequently to other parts of her body. She has since undergone a mastectomy and an operation to remove her ovaries.

Following a week long Fitness to Practice hearing, The General Medical Council (GMC) today handed down the four month suspension against Dr Hany Sadek Fahmy Hanna, one of the GPs responsible for Emma’s care. The GMC noted that there had been no apology or expression of regret from Dr Hanna and stated: “The Panel has concluded that the period of suspension would send out a message to you, the profession and the wider public that such misconduct is unacceptable.”

Laura Daly, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell, who is representing Emma, has confirmed that a separate civil action against several of the GPs at the surgery is ongoing.

Speaking out for the first time about her ordeal and battle to obtain a correct diagnosis, Emma said: “I went back and forth to my surgery and each time I was told it was something really minor. I was reassured that I did not have cancer. As time went on, I was in so much pain and was so worried about the lumps I had found. During one visit, Dr Hanna just sat back in his chair and said ‘Emma – what do you want me to say!’ I was made to feel like I was imagining my symptoms.”

Laura Daly, from Irwin Mitchell, commented: “Although we are in the early stages of investigating Emma’s claim for failures in her care, it would appear that there were numerous opportunities by several health care professionals to refer Emma to a specialist much earlier.

“Emma is very grateful to the GMC for investigating the conduct of one particular doctor. They found that he had failed to provide good clinical care in that he did not adequately assess her condition nor make adequate records in her medical notes.”

During the seven day hearing, the Panel heard evidence that the failure to adequately assess Emma ’demonstrated a frank disregard for patient safety because that patient had cancer until proven otherwise’. The Panel found that the doctor had compromised the care provided to Emma and that such conduct amounted to misconduct. In addition, the panel considered Dr Hanna’s fitness to practice to be currently impaired by reason of his misconduct.

During the week long hearing the GMC panel uncovered a number of inconsistencies regarding Dr Hanna’s version of events who sought to convince the GMC that Emma had never mentioned to him the lump in her breast.

However  the Panel “considered it to be inconceivable for a patient who has a lump in her breast not to report this crucial symptom to her GP on three separate occasions..” and found Emma’s testimony to the GMC to be “a more credible and reliable account”  than Hanna’s version of events.

Emma, who is married to Jason, 36, and has two children, Zac, 14, and Bryony, 8, added: “I feel deeply angry and let down by my GP surgery. I cannot understand how I could attend my GP surgery with what seemed to be obvious signs of breast cancer and yet it remained undiagnosed for so long.

“The surgery and cancer treatment have been really tough but the hardest thing to cope with has been the news that my life expectancy has been significantly reduced.

“I am thankful that the GMC conducted this investigation and agreed that the care I received fell way short of acceptable standards. However, regardless of the outcome, I have to live with the consequences of what happened and sadly nothing can turn back the clock.”

If you have suffered due to misdiagnosed breast cancer or a delayed breast cancer diagnosis, our medical negligence lawyers could help you claim compensation. Call 0808 163 4557 for a free initial consultation or see our Cancer Misdiagnosis Claims page for more details.