Diagnosis Delay 'Led Man To Suffer'

A Cancer Patient Went Through "Unnecessary Suffering" Because Of A Late Diagnosis

11.06.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

An ombudsman's report has found that a cancer patient suffered "unnecessarily" because a hospital failed to diagnose him with cancer soon enough.

The unnamed 59-year-old man in question went to the Morriston Hospital in Swansea, complaining of blurred vision and back pain in February 2012.

At first, the patient was seen at the hospital's emergency department, where he complained of serious lower back pain, weight loss and a poor appetite, reports the BBC.

A consultant physician at the facility highlighted appendicitis as the most likely cause for his symptoms and days later the man was discharged and told to take painkillers.

However, the patient did not make a recovery and was admitted to hospital again a week later, where an X-ray showed he had a spinal fracture and an MRI scan showed he had cancer.

The man was rushed into spinal surgery to help alleviate his back pain but he died less than five weeks later.

According to acting ombudsman professor Margaret Griffiths, the patient was unlikely to have made a recovery, even if he was diagnosed when he first attended hospital.

However, professor Griffiths said concerns remained about staff's failure to spot "red flags" that should have made it obvious the man was not suffering from appendicitis, but in fact cancer and a spinal fracture.

In a statement to the press, the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board said: "We wish to apologise sincerely to the family of this patient for the shortcomings in his care, and the distress this has caused.

"Triaging patients effectively and providing adequate and timely pain relief are extremely important, and we have since taken significant steps to improve these aspects of our care."

The ombudsman has ordered the board to pay the man's daughter a sum of £1,500 in recognition of the distress its poor care caused her family - although she may be able to seek more substantial compensation if she chooses to launch a civil claim.

Expert Opinion
The early diagnosis of serious injury and illness is crucial to maximise the chances of treatments being able to have the biggest impact.

“Sadly in this case the ombudsman has found that there were issues in the patient’s diagnosis, which although may not have saved his life, should have flagged the condition he was suffering from.

“It is vital that having learned of these issues the Health Board responsible learns from this situation to improve patient safety in future.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner