St Albans cancer patient: ‘I warned health chiefs that system was flawed’

St Albans City Hospital

St Albans City Hospital - Credit: Archant

A tragic report of a mother suffering terminal breast cancer after St Albans Hospital failed to detect and treat the disease has prompted another mum to reveal she had warned health chiefs of glitches in the system.

The Herts Advertiser last week publicised a report on the plight of a 41-year-old mother of one, following an investigation by the Heath Service Ombudsman.

She had been referred to the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust’s breast clinic in St Albans in May 2010 to attend a follow-up appointment, where a breast specialist failed to carry out tests needed to rule out cancer.

Biopsies carried out in December 2011 revealed the mum had advanced inoperable breast cancer and secondary cancers of the liver, brain and bone.

The woman has since received an apology and compensation from the trust.

Her tragic story prompted a 43-year-old St Albans mum, whose name cannot be given, to contact this paper about her problems with both the trust and breast clinic.

In 2010 she and a friend were diagnosed with breast cancer weeks apart and, following treatment, were supposed to have mammograms every year.

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But last year they had to ring the breast clinic to ask for an appointment and to see a consultant as neither had been sent details for follow-up appointments.

Concerned that others may also have been forgotten the mum complained to the trust’s chief executive, Samantha Jones, saying that while many people had faith in the system and may not want to chase up hospital appointments, “sadly glitches do happen”.

She urged the trust to look into the problem.

However her lack of faith in the trust deepened after a distressing visit to the breast clinic where she was told that despite a scan picking up lesions and spots on her spine, no further tests were needed as they were “likely” to be benign.

She said: “Some of us patients have concerns and want them investigated and we don’t want to be palmed off.”

Upset at delays in tests and being “brushed away by a doctor”, the woman is now under the care of the Royal Free Hospital, which she said had been “brilliant” with follow-up tests.

Luckily she later discovered that the cancer had not returned.

The Herts Advertiser understands that Ms Jones has apologised to the woman following her complaint.

In a recent press statement the trust said that a major review of all its cancer services has been undertaken, including a new system to track each patient’s care.