NHS apology after cancer patient dies during heart surgery delays

NHS Forth Valley has been ordered by a watchdog to apologise to the patient's child over the death.

SPSO orders NHS Forth Valley to apologise for a patient’s fatal cancer spreading after heart surgery delays iStock

A health board has been ordered to issue an apology after delays in urgent heart surgery caused a patient’s cancer to fatally spread.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) instructed NHS Forth Valley to say sorry to the patient’s child, who is referred to as ‘C’ to protect their anonymity.

C complained about the board regarding delays in treatment provided to their late parent, referred to as ‘A’.

When A was first diagnosed with bladder cancer, medical professionals identified that the patient would require heart surgery before they were fit for bladder surgery as cancer treatment.

A was then referred to another health board to receive that surgery, but this took several months to arrange and carry out.

C told the SPSO that by the time the heart surgery was completed, their parent’s cancer had progressed to a point where treatment was no longer possible.

The watchdog took independent advice from an oncology consultant, and found that the health board failed to identify radiotherapy as a possible treatment that would not require heart surgery, despite this advice being given by their oncology team.

Additionally, NHS Forth Valley was also found to have mishandled the referral to another health board by not emphasising the urgency of A’s situation.

Finally, it was also found that after the heart surgery, the board’s healthcare professionals did not recognise that the window for treatment was closing in time to treat the patient’s bladder cancer.

NHS Forth Valley was ordered to apologise to C for failing to provide their late parent with a “reasonable standard of treatment”.

The SPSO also set out some recommendations in its report, and suggested: “A full range of treatment options should be considered when deciding on a treatment plan, and reconsidered if the viability of the original plan changes.

“All referrals made to other boards for treatment should include full details of any time sensitivity around treatment.

“Where it is unclear if treatment can be provided quickly enough, direct communication should occur between the relevant teams to explore this and alternative treatment options.”

An NHS Forth Valley spokesperson said: “We have apologised to the family and work is underway to ensure all of the recommendations are addressed within the timescales set by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

“We will also share the findings with local staff and services to ensure we learn from this report and use it to inform future service developments and improvements.”

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