Bricket Wood man dies waiting for a hospital referral

A MAN who overcame bladder cancer twice died from another type of aggressive cancer while he was waiting for a specialist hospital referral earlier this year.

John Foster, 69, of Jenkins Avenue, Bricket Wood, died in hospital from multi-organ failure on April 23 after suffering substantial haemorrhaging caused by pancreatic cancer.

At an inquest into the retired BT manager’s death held on Tuesday it was heard that several weeks before, he had seen GP Anuja Shah presenting symptoms including stomach pain and jaundice which led her to suspect he might have the disease.

An urgent referral to Watford General Hospital (WGH) followed but, after a number of tests, doctors there discharged him on April 1 with another urgent referral to the Royal Free Hospital in London for specialist treatment.

Two weeks later – while Mr Foster was waiting for a call from the Royal Free – he collapsed outside a supermarket due to a haemorrhage caused by the cancer which had been spreading rapidly.

He was rushed to WGH and subsequently suffered three further bleeds and a number of heart attacks which resulted in an emergency operation to stop the bleeding and a blood transfusion.

Mr Foster’s condition seemed to improve and he was taken to the Royal Free on April 21 in the hope doctors might be able to operate on the tumour but he died a few days later after tests revealed the cancer had spread and was inoperable.

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Pathologist Dr Tu Luong, who carried out the post-mortem, said the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes and was growing rapidly.

She told Mr Foster’s widow Margaret, a retired social worker, that the cancer had probably spread by the time he was showing symptoms as it was a “silent tumour” and he could have only lived for a further three to six months with palliative care.

But Mrs Foster said: “It’s not just a few months – it’s time with someone we loved very much.

“He would have had a better chance of surviving longer than he did had he not waited for so long for the referral.”

Mrs Foster said the doctors at WGH sent her husband’s notes via courier to the Royal Free on Thursday, April 1, and would not discharge him until they had arrived.

She continued: “They told him if he hadn’t heard by the Friday to ring them and when he did they said they had no knowledge of him. I still don’t feel my questions have been answered – why have they left it 21 days to see a man another hospital is asking them to see early and who has a history of cancer.

“I feel my husband would be here today if they had responded. I feel the Royal Free let us down – not the medical staff there but the administration.”

Herts coroner Edward Thomas recorded a death from natural causes: “We now know the cancer had been advanced and had infiltrated the lymph nodes. That cancer would not have been operable and that infiltration would have taken place before April 1. It had occurred over quite a length of time, but obviously had he been seen earlier it is difficult to know what would have happened.”