Ayrshire health chiefs have been ordered to apologise after failing to tell the family of a terminally-ill cancer patient that their condition had deteriorated.
The patient had been receiving palliative chemotherapy until the Covid pandemic led to its suspension.
In 2021 the patient, referred to as patient ‘A’ in the Ombudsman report, was admitted to hospital following a prolonged period of sickness and spent several weeks there until they passed away.
A complaint was made by the child of the patient to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman around their care and treatment and the health board’s communication with the family and responses to the initial complaint.
A report from the ombudsman stated: “C’s parent (A) was receiving palliative chemotherapy, following a diagnosis of terminal cancer, which was suspended as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened.
“‘A’ was admitted to hospital following a prolonged period of vomiting that had not responded to treatment and remained in the hospital for several weeks before passing away.”
The complainer approached Ayrshire and Arran Health Board detailing the family’s concerns about the cancer diagnosis, the decisions made about their parent’s chemotherapy, aspects of the care and treatment, and communication with the family.
Ayrshire and Arran Health Board responded that they considered the care and treatment had been reasonable overall, but accepted that there had been some aspects that could have been improved.
They also accepted that there were aspects of their communication that could have been improved, particularly that they should have contacted the patient’s next of kin when their condition deteriorated over a particular night.
However, the family was not willing to accept the responses and took the matter to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman said: “We found that A’s treatment had been reasonable overall and that while there were certain aspects of A’s care that could have been improved, overall the board provided reasonable care to A.
“In relation to the aspects of the complaint about the board’s failure to contact A’s next of kin when A’s condition deteriorated over a particular night and about the board’s responses to complaints, we upheld these aspects
of the complaint.
“In relation to the board’s handling of complaints, we found that there were delays in responding, failure to address various clearly raised issues in responses, unreasonable action around the arrangement of a promised meeting within a reasonable timescale and the inclusion of statements that were not supported by evidence.”
Ayrshire and Arran Health Board have been ordered to apologise to the complainer for not responding ‘reasonably’ to their complaints, making specific reference to the failure to address various issues raised in the complaints, and its failure to undertake a promised meeting.
The board has also been told to apologise for making statements in their response to complaints that were not backed up by evidence.
The complainer has requested that the apology is provided in person, with the opportunity to make a personal statement on the circumstances.
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