Patient died after month delay to diagnosis of ‘aggressive and difficult’ cancer

When concerns were raised about a possible missed renal cause, further investigations did not happen until almost four weeks later.

Patient died after month delay to diagnosis of ‘aggressive and difficult’ cancer Sudok1 via iStock

A medical practice in the Highlands has been ordered to apologise to the family of a patient who died after the diagnosis of their “aggressive and difficult” cancer was delayed by a month.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) has instructed the doctors in NHS Highland to say sorry to the patient’s spouse.

The watchdog heard that the patient, referred to as A, attended the practice on a number of occasions over a few years with ongoing and worsening abdominal and lower back pain.

A complaint submitted to the SPSO claimed the practice assumed A was suffering from a musculoskeletal problem and failed to consider other diagnoses sooner.

The patient was later diagnosed with lymphoma and died at the time of diagnosis.

In response to the complaint, the practice responded that it undertook a Significant Adverse Event Review (SAER) and noted it was not clear when the lymphoma started.

The practice also found that A had several normal or reassuring examinations and tests, and that several of A’s presentations and tests pointed towards other diagnoses including liver disease and prostate disease.

The practice said that the SAER found that it seemed very unlikely that A had lymphoma for a long period of time given the very aggressive nature of their disease.

However, following independent advice from a GP, the SPSO upheld the complaint and ordered the practice to apologise.

After investigating the case, it found that a number of tests and investigations were reported as normal and there was was no cause to refer A to specialists on suspicion of cancer.

However, the watchdog found that when concerns were raised about a possible missed renal cause for A’s pain, further investigations should have been undertaken but did not happen until almost a month later.

The SPSO said that A was suffering from an aggressive and difficult to diagnose cancer and, while the care and treatment provided by the practice was generally considered to be reasonable, the review should have triggered further tests at the time

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