A Hospital Trust has agreed to pay damages of £50,000 to a grandmother after delays in diagnosing a tumour led to her needing an emergency operation and ongoing health problems which could have been avoided.
The 69-year- old woman had been in good health after successfully beating cancer of the uterus in 2009 when she began to experience increasing abdominal pains.
Having visited her GP, she then went to the accident and emergency department at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, and was discharged the following day after having a CT scan, which didn’t trigger a diagnosis.
Further tests at Pinderfields followed later that month as the problems and pains persisted, but again they failed to diagnose anything.
The woman was eventually referred back to St James’s Hospital in Leeds, where she had been treated for her previous cancer, where an enlarged bowel tumour was discovered.
Doctors said it was a recurrence of her cancer.
As her symptoms worsened the following day the patient had to undergo emergency surgery to remove the mass, as well as a section of her colon.
The woman, who has asked not to be named, required a stoma (an opening on the abdomen which diverts waste from the bowels or urine into a pouch on the outside of the body). She also suffered several infections and a wound became septic.
Having sought legal advice from medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, a legal case was launched against Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Pinderfields Hospital.
It was alleged there had been a failure to detect the mass and investigate it properly, and that staff at Pinderfields Hospital had failed to appreciate the severity of the situation.
Solicitors acting on the woman’s behalf also alleged that surgery should have been an elected and managed process, but due to the tumour being missed, it escalated to an emergency.
In addition, it was alleged that had the operation been carried out sooner, the woman could have avoided her post-operative difficulties and not needed a stoma, which she now requires for the rest of her life, and doctors at Pinderfields should have referred the patient back to St James’s sooner, given their knowledge of her previous cancer.
Speaking of her ordeal, the woman said she at one stage felt her “life was over”.
“I felt like I was being passed from pillar to post and no one was listening to me. I was treated dreadfully,” she said.
“I had numerous visits to my GP and the hospital and the doctors didn’t think anything was wrong.
“The surgeon at Leeds told me that if I’d been left any longer, it could have been fatal. The whole thing has been a torment and I thought my life was over.
“I have had a lot of support from my family but it has been a horrendous time. I might be almost 70, but I’m still fairly active and it’s terrible to have something like this happen to you.”
The woman said she knew her health had deteriorated significantly in 2012 when she lost her appetite, lost weight and began to suffer bowel problems. She said it has been a long road to recovery since, needing district nursing care at home for six months following her operation.
“I felt helpless and stupid, but I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through,” she said.
“My stomach is still in a mess now and I still have swelling. My husband has been marvelous and looked after me. I don’t think I would be here without him.”
Initially, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust denied all allegations made against it, meaning court proceedings had to be issued on the patient’s behalf.
Chartered Legal Executive Fellow Sam Thompson, who handled the case at Hudgell Solicitors, said this resulted in additional costs being incurred in the case, before the Trust made an offer of £50,000 in damages to avoid a court hearing.
That approach was one Mr Thompson was critical of, particularly given the Trust served no written defence at all.
“My client has been through an incredibly difficult time and has been left with a permanent stoma, which of course means changes to her life, for the rest of her life,” he said.
“There is a certain irony in this case in that the Trust was responsible for the delay in her medical treatment, and also her legal action to resolve it. They could and should have made efforts to settle before court proceedings were required.
“After court proceedings were issued, the Trust made an offer to settle without preparing a written defence.
“They increased the cost to the public purse in this case, which could have been avoided had they agreed to settle before court proceedings were started.
“I hope this settlement helps our client to move forward with her life as positively as possible.”
Karen Stone, Medical Director at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We would like to apologise to the patient and her family for the problems she has experienced and are pleased that the legal claim has been resolved.”