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Mum, 35, Died From Cervical Cancer Because Hospital Trust Incorrectly Recorded Smear Test Results As ‘Normal’

Widower Joins Legal Team To Support Cervical Cancer Prevention Week After NHS Bosses Admit Liability


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

A 35-year-old mum died from cervical cancer because medical staff wrongly recorded the results of her routine smear test as normal, an NHS trust has admitted.

Louisa Foster underwent radical surgery including a hysterectomy as well as intensive combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy in a bid to beat the disease.

A mum to Poppy and Casper, Louisa had been diagnosed with cancer nearly three years after being told the results of a screening test were normal. However, medical staff should have spotted cell abnormalities and recommended further action which would have stopped Louisa’s cancer developing. 

Her widower Graeme, of Granborough Buckinghamshire, is now joining his legal team at Irwin Mitchell to support Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease.

He said: “Louisa was a beautiful and caring person and a great mum. To see her health deteriorate as the cancer took hold of her was heartbreaking.

“Although she was suffering extreme pain because of her illness, Louisa always tried to stay positive right to the end. She was more concerned about the wellbeing of others, especially Poppy and Casper.

“Louisa was everything to me and I miss her every day. Our family had the rest of our lives to spend together and this has now been snatched away from us.

“Louisa will never get to experience the up and downs of bringing up her children or be there to celebrate milestones such as Poppy and Casper sitting their exams, going to university or getting their first job.”

Louisa underwent a test as part of the NHS Cervical Screening Programme at her GP surgery in July 2008. Because of high demand for the service, and to meet national reporting targets, the test was sent to Sheffield for analysis.

The results were recorded as normal and Louisa was advised that she did not need another test for three years.

After giving birth to Casper in December 2010, Louisa started to experience pain and discomfort. However, she was told it was an infection and that antibiotics would clear it up.

She continued to suffer symptoms of cervical cancer, including weight loss and severe pain in her back, pelvis and abdomen, during the following months.

After seeing doctors on several occasions she was referred to a gynaecologist. After further tests and a biopsy, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in April 2011.

Louisa was told her cancer was incurable in late 2012. She was admitted to a hospice on 8 June, 2013, and died six days later.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which was responsible for the test results, admitted liability for Louisa’s death.

The Trust admitted that if Louisa’s test results had been reported as ‘abnormal’ she would have been referred for more tests. With ‘appropriate treatment’ Louisa “would not have developed cervical cancer and her death would have been avoided,” the Trust said.

Graeme, 49, added: “When Louisa started complaining of pain in her stomach and back and started losing weight shortly after giving birth to Casper I instinctively knew something wasn’t right.

“However, the doctors seemed to think Louisa’s symptoms were connected to childbirth or she had an infection. We trusted their opinions and it’s only now that we know the doctors faced a tremendously difficult task because they were referring to incorrect information on her medical notes.

“I appreciate those in the NHS face daily challenges but my family have paid the ultimate price because of the negligent recording of my wife’s results.

“Had Louisa been given accurate results she could have sought further help and treatment before it was too late. My wife would still be alive and my children would still have their mum.

“No women should have to go through the pain Louisa did. It’s so important that if any women feel they may have symptoms linked to cervical cancer they seek medical advice quickly, and if needs be don’t take no for an answer. I hope that no other families have to suffer the devastation that our family have.” 

Irwin Mitchell is now working with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on a settlement to help secure the futures of Poppy, 10, and Casper, seven.

Expert Opinion
Louisa’s case sadly highlights the devastating consequences that can happen because of delays in diagnosing and treating cervical cancer.

“While nothing can bring Louisa back we are thankful that the NHS Trust has admitted liability for her death. It’s now vital that the Trust learns lessons to ensure such a mistake does not happen again.

“Although Louisa’s test results were recorded inaccurately it’s important women continue to take part in the NHS’ Cervical Screening Programme. We also join Graeme in encouraging any women who may think they have the symptoms of cervical cancer to seek medical advice at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Marcos Eleftheriou, Associate Solicitor

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week is organised by the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and runs between 22-28 January. For more information visit www.jostrust.org.uk

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