Royal United Bath Hospital Admits Care 'Fell Below A Reasonable Standard'
Two women have spoken of their concern about a hospital’s cervical cancer screening service after they were diagnosed with the disease despite undergoing regular routine testing.
Specialist medical negligence lawyers from Irwin Mitchell are acting for the pair who were diagnosed with the disease after smear test results were classed as ‘negative’ by Royal United Bath Hospital.
The cases involve a woman from Somerset who was diagnosed with cervical cancer after three smear test results were ‘incorrectly’ reported as negative. She now has terminal cancer.
Another woman from Shepton Mallet suffered with symptoms for years, however her cervical screening results reported no abnormalities.
Irwin Mitchell’s legal experts are investigating the care the women received under Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust. Following legal submissions, the trust admitted liability in the first case. With regards to the second woman, the trust confirmed that the cervical screening results “could have been interpreted differently.”
The women are now joining with their legal team in marking Cervical Cancer Prevention Week by speaking out about their experiences and urging for lessons to be learned so other patients don’t have to go through what they have.
Expert Opinion“Cervical cancer is a horrific illness with the effects not only felt by women who are diagnosed but also their family.
We are deeply concerned about what our clients have told us and how they went on to develop the disease after their cervical screening results were reported as negative.
It is understandably very difficult for them to hear that the outcome could have been different had the tests been interpreted correctly.
We are working hard to support our clients so they can access the specialist care and support they require. It is vital that lessons are learned to improve patient care.
However, it is important that there is not a loss of confidence in the screening programme and women continue to attend appointments.”
Eleri Davies - Associate Solicitor
Somerset Case Study
A woman from Somerset was told she had cervical cancer on 6 January 2017. She was shocked to be given the diagnosis as all her cervical smear tests in the past had been negative.
She was referred for an urgent scan and underwent a hysterectomy on 23 January, 2017. This was followed by chemotherapy.
In September the same year, the hospital trust carried out an audit of the woman’s cervical screening. It was found that her three previous smear test results had been incorrectly reported as negative.
The woman, who wishes not to be named, instructed legal experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the care she received and whether her cancer could have been diagnosed sooner.
The hospital trust admitted a breach of duty where the care provided “fell below a reasonable standard” with regards to the reporting of her smear test results in February 2008, May 2011 and May 2014. It was also accepted that had the abnormalities been picked up in 2008 or 2011, she would have been successfully treated and “would not have developed invasive cancer.”
The cancer is now terminal.
The woman, 53, who is married and has two children, said: “The last few years have been truly awful for me and my family. We were all absolutely devastated to find out I have cervical cancer, especially as my previous three smear test results had all been negative. Then to be told that it could have been prevented is heart-breaking.
“Nothing can be done to change what has happened, but I am concerned that there will no doubt be other women out there going through what I am and I feel that the hospital trust has a responsibility to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.
“Lessons need to be learned and for this to happen the trust should let us know how many other women are affected. I wouldn’t want anyone else suffering like me and my family.”
Shepton Mallet case study
Leigh Kempshall from Shepton Mallet, Somerset, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in November 2017 after undergoing a hysterectomy.
After complaining of chronic fatigue and heavy bleeding for many years, along with several miscarriages, she underwent a smear test in 2009 which was reported as showing no abnormal cells.
Her irregular bleeding continued and in September 2012 she had another smear test which again reported as showing no abnormal cells. A follow up appointment in 2015 also showed no abnormalities.
Leigh continued to suffer symptoms including abdominal pain, heavy periods and weight gain. Over the coming months she attended a number of medical appointments. She self- referred to a private consultant gynaecologist who, in October 2017, agreed Leigh should undergo a hysterectomy because of her symptoms.
She was diagnosed with cervical cancer the following month during a post-operative examination.
Following her diagnosis, Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust carried out a routine review of Leigh’s previous cervical screening results. She received a letter from the trust stating that “one or more” of the results “could have been interpreted differently.”
Leigh underwent chemo-radiotherapy and brachytherapy, which is also known as internal radiation.
Leigh, 46, said: “I could tell for a long time that something wasn’t right with me and I am so thankful that I persevered with going to see my doctor.
“I struggled for years and had no choice but to go private to get the treatment I needed. To undergo a hysterectomy and then to be told that I was suffering from cervical cancer was devastating. I had always been told that my smear tests had been normal, so it was a huge shock to get the diagnosis.
“My family has been a great support to me throughout my treatment, but life has changed dramatically. I have been left with other life changing health problems, which I believe might not have been an issue if I had been diagnosed sooner and not had to undergo all the cancer treatment, as well as the emotional upset and uncertainty for me and my family.
“We all know our own bodies and know when something is wrong, so don’t be afraid to see your doctor. For something like this, early diagnosis is key.”
She added: “The charity We Hear You was a great support to me after I was diagnosed and to say thank you I will taking part in a skydive later this year. I am scared of heights and of flying so this will be a huge challenge for me, but nothing compared to what I have been through.”
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 20-26 January. For more information visit www.jostrust.org.uk/