North East Woman with Terminal Cancer Demands Investigation Into Her Care

Patient Tells Lawyers About Apparent Delays In Cancer Diagnosis

27.07.2015

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A woman diagnosed with terminal cancer has asked lawyers to investigate her care at Sunderland Royal Hospital and her Sunderland based GP practice Dr Weatherhead and Associates as she believes there were unnecessary delays in her diagnosis which could have saved her life and avoided the significant pain that she has suffered over the course of the last year.

Jeanette Scully, 47, from Sunderland, was diagnosed in June this year with a rare cancer, a soft tissue sarcoma of the womb, and within days of the diagnosis was given the devastating news that she does not have long left to live. After finding out she married her partner David of 22 years whilst an inpatient at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

She has also now instructed specialist negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care she received as she is concerned that mistakes were made causing delays in her diagnosis and leaving her to suffer terrible pain without appropriate pain relief and treatment. She wants to ensure others don’t suffer in similar circumstances in future. Following her diagnosis Jeanette has been receiving around the clock palliative care in a hospice.

Jeanette, who was devastated at losing her mum in 2011 to cancer, first went to see her GP in 2012 complaining of pain in her stomach. Ever since then she suffered ongoing pain and bowel problems. In 2014 she underwent a uterine ablation for fibroids, however, the procedure left her with more pain that she had before. Jeanette regularly attended her GP practice complaining of pain, bleeding and urinary symptoms and repeatedly asked for a referral to the hospital to look into these problems.

By February 2015 she had lost three stones in weight and had regular episodes of intolerable pain. After being rushed to A&E by ambulance scans revealed she had a mass in her abdomen but this was presumed to be an infected fibroid, for which she was given antibiotic treatment and discharged home again, when the pain was thought to have settled.

Over the following months her pain continued and Jeanette, recalls being advised by her GP to try and use the power of positive thought to deal with her pain. On Good Friday in April 2015 she had to go to A&E again. She was seen but quickly discharged without treatment. Her partner David had to push her out of the hospital in a wheelchair because she was so ill. Just ¼ of mile away from the hospital, on the way home, David had to pull over as she was screaming in agony. 

David says: “I didn’t know what to do. Normal people in that situation would call 999 but I didn’t feel I could as this would mean going to A&E where we had just been discharged. In desperation I called 111 and when they heard the state that Jeanette was in, they immediately dispatched an ambulance to return her to Sunderland A&E. The crew couldn’t believe she had just left the hospital, gave her gas and air for the pain and rushed her back to A&E.” 

Jeanette was admitted to Sunderland Royal for 6 days for pain management but still no reason was provided for her ongoing serious pain.

By Mid-may the couple, desperate for someone to help, decided to try a different NHS walk-in centre in the hope of finding a doctor who would find the cause of the pain. They were seen by a nurse, who was shocked by their story, but felt that Mrs Scully was so unwell, she could only be dealt with at hospital and recommended that she return to Sunderland A&E.

However, Mrs Scully was concerned that if she went back to the hospital she would be ignored again. Instead the couple returned home and decided that the next time Mrs Scully’s pain became unbearable they would go to A&E but not leave until someone found a reason for the horrific pain.

Later that day the couple went back to A&E with Jeanette in severe pain and a doctor did finally attempt to find the source of the pain. She underwent a CT scan which again identified the mass but this time better imaging suggested that it was cancer. In June this year the couple were given the heart-breaking news that Jeanette had terminal cancer which was unlikely to respond to chemotherapy.

Jeanette said: “I was absolutely shocked. I knew all along that something was really very wrong and I had worried about cancer a lot. But I couldn’t believe that I had actually had cancer all of this time and no-one had done anything about it despite the amount of times I asked for help.

“We were told that no action had been taken following the scan which first identified a mass as the doctors had presumed it was infected fibroids. I was later told that a gynaecologist had recommended that I should have a hysterectomy but that another gynaecologist had said no.

“Two of the GPs from the local practice came to visit me at home where they said that we had been let down by the practice but that it was because I had been seen by so many different doctors at the practice, that no-one had seen the bigger picture.

“I just want to know that what happened to me will be properly investigated and something will be done about it as I would never want anyone else to go through what we have. I really believe that if I had been properly investigated when I first reported symptoms things would have been very different.”

Once she knew she was dying Jeanette and David decided to go ahead with a wedding, which they had been putting off for years, waiting for the right time.

She said: “Despite everything I had a really lovely day and was even able to walk down the aisle. I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped with the wedding.”

Expert Opinion
“This is a really tragic situation and it’s terribly distressing for both Jeanette and David. They have tried their best to get help and support and manage the pain she felt for years and feel as though they have been let down by medical staff.

“We will be investigating the care provided by City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and the GP practice and seeking the answers that Jeanette and David deserve. They just want to know that any potential lessons are learnt to improve the diagnostic care in future to hopefully prevent any others suffering in similar circumstances.”
Michelle Armstrong, Solicitor

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