Newark GP cancer misdiagnosis in Deputy PM review

Image copyright Luke O'Reilly
Image caption Diane Howell was told her persistent back pain was caused by bad posture

The Deputy Prime Minister has promised to look into why a woman's terminal cancer was missed 11 times by her GP.

Diane Howell, 61, died of pancreatic cancer last year after repeated visits to the Lombard Medical Centre, Newark, Nottinghamshire, over eight months.

While the health service ombudsman said her care met expected standards, her son, Luke O'Reilly, has called for earlier testing.

MP Robert Jenrick highlighted the case in the House of Commons.

The Newark MP asked Nick Clegg to look into why a quarter of cancers were diagnosed in A&E and to support Mr O'Reilly's campaign for earlier tests for the disease by GPs.

Pancreatic Cancer

  • About 8,800 people are diagnosed in the UK each year - the 11th most common
  • More common in older people, about half of all new cases in people aged 75 or over
  • Early stage tumours do not usually cause any symptoms, which can make it difficult to diagnose
  • Symptoms often include pain in the back or stomach area, unexpected weight loss and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)

(Source: NHS Choices)

Mr Clegg said both he and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt would examine the issues and Mrs Howell's case in particular.

Mr O'Reilly said his mother began to feel unwell in January 2013 and was repeatedly seen by GPs who offered treatment for muscular back pain and constipation.

By August her pain was so bad her son took her to A&E, where tests diagnosed the cancer. She died two months later.

He complained to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman but it ruled, based on the recorded symptoms, it was "difficult to pinpoint a time when there was a clear missed opportunity to make an early diagnosis".

But Mr O'Reilly rejected this and said: "Cancer was the last thing they looked for when it should have been the first, I don't see why it isn't.

"Why test someone for numerous minor things, then test for cancer when it is too late?

"She went back for eight months and she spent many nights knowing she was very poorly but being told by her GP she wasn't.

"I know the chances of a cure were slim but I could have made those eight months the best of her life and we were robbed of that."

Practice director at the Lombard Medical Centre, Diana Kirk said: "We have already answered Mr O'Reilly's concerns honestly and to the best of our ability.

"I now refer you to the ombudsman's report."

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