Glasgow & West Scotland

Watchdog upholds patient complaints over treatment

Hospital Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption A hospital was criticised for claiming a man who could not speak phoned them to cancel an appointment

An ombudsman has criticised Hairmyres Hospital, which claimed a man with terminal cancer who could not speak phoned them to cancel an examination.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) also upheld complaints relating to delayed cancer diagnoses.

One woman's cancer grew inoperable in the delay between diagnosis and surgery.

A GP who withdrew continuous pain relief from a dying man was also criticised.

A man with bowel problems was referred urgently by his GP to Hairmyres Hospital, in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire. He had not received an appointment four months later, so the GP referred him again.

Seven weeks later, he had a bowel examination. A further examination a month after that identified advanced bowel cancer. He died six months later.

Lack of empathy

The SPSO said: "The board at first told [his wife] that the reason her husband was not seen sooner was because he made an appointment but phoned them and cancelled it. They said they had then removed him from the waiting list as he did not ask for another date.

"She told them, however, that he had never received a letter and could not have called as he had had a stroke and would not have been able to speak to them by phone.

"My investigation found that the board could not provide any evidence to show what had happened, and they acknowledged that they had got this wrong. They also failed to tell his GP that he had been removed from the waiting list."

The SPSO said that although the delay was unlikely to have affected the outcome, the complaint was upheld.

Another man with terminal mesothelioma, a cancer affecting the lining of the lung, was prescribed a syringe driver by an out-of-hours GP. The device supplies continuous pain relief.

The following morning a locum GP from the man's practice in Greater Glasgow overturned this decision and said he must continue with his existing pain relief.

The SPSO said he took independent advice on the complaint from his GP adviser who said the actions of the out-of-hours doctor were "excellent" and in keeping with the wishes of the patient and his wife.

He said: "In contrast, the locum decided to put (the man) back on his original pain relief medication without ever seeing him. My adviser took the view that this decision was taken with insufficient information."

He added that his adviser said the locum GP showed a lack of empathy for the patient and his family.

'Unacceptable' delays

The SPSO also investigated another case where a woman diagnosed with liver cancer was referred to NHS Lothian for surgery. She waited more than three months for surgery, by which time a scan showed the cancer had developed and surgery was no longer possible.

The SPSO said: "[The woman] complained about this to the board and then to me, but died before I completed my investigation."

He acknowledged that it was no possible to say whether the outcome would have been different, but described the delays an "unacceptable" and said they caused the patient and her family distress.

In another case, a woman who had had cancer twice and found lumps in her groin had to wait four months for a biopsy to confirm it was cancer again.

The SPSO said: "[The woman] saw at least six doctors during the period concerned, and my adviser said that there was effectively a lack of ownership of her care and that doctors failed to recognise the severity and urgency of her situation."

The SPSO pointed out that although the woman waited too long for a biopsy, he did not think that having it earlier would have improved the outcome for her.

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