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A clear case of NHS negligence

Our correspondent writes ...

In April 1997 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer after ten years of annual smear tests and a two-and-a-half year fight to get my GP and doctors at my local women's hospital to believe I was ill. What a fight that was!

I had repeatedly been to see my GP after I started to suffer severe inter-menstrual/post coital bleedings and I was told time and time again there was nothing wrong with me. Eventually my GP referred me to my local women’s hospital for further investigations. By this time I had lost over two stone in weight.

I was admitted for a D+C/hysteroscopy. I learned later this procedure was carried out by an unsupervised junior doctor and the results from this were that I was on an early change of life.

My health conditions worsened daily. I could hardly walk yet my GP and the hospital doctors were getting really fed up with me, and didn't even attempt to disguise their feelings. On one visit, I was shouted at by one GP for daring to go to her surgery. She accused me of taking the places of really ill patients on a Friday afternoon when she had no time to examine me. Another would roll her eyes and turn her back on me when I entered her room yet she know I had hearing problems and needed to lip read.

The junior house doctors who saw me at the women’s hospital were even worse. They talked of heavy periods despite me telling them repeatedly that my periods were fine. It was the inter-menstrual/post coital bleedings that were worrying me.

Eventually, after two-and-a-half years of being treated like I was imagining things, I persuaded my GP to examine me again. She was horrified when she did and ran out of the room to ask another GP to make a secondary examination. They both promised to contact the hospital that very day to get me an appointment for the next clinic day.

I was so happy that someone finally believed something was very wrong. My GP later visited me at home with a hospital appointment arranged for the next day.

*

On entering the room, the female house officer would not listen to me. I explained that my GP thought she had felt some abnormality during the examination the day before, and would like their expert opinion. The house officer told me she wouldn’t be examining me as I was only suffering an early change of life. She would merely try new medications.

By this time I really had given up. I started to think I was imagining things and, for the first time, I actually cried all the way home. I just didn’t know what else I could do.

Two weeks later, when my GP realised I had not been examined, she again came to my home. I was so poorly I could not leave the house so she faxed the hospital three times, stating clearly that she was concerned they were missing the signs of cervical cancer. The following day I was seen for the first time by the consultant. Like my GP, he was horrified when he examined me, asking question after question - how long had I been like that? The only excuse he could offer was that “maybe because I was deaf, the junior doctors had not been able to understand me.” What a very poor excuse! Yes, I do need to lip read but my speech is fine.

They found I had a 6 cm tumour that filled the whole of my cervical canal and I was treated with extensive radiotherapy daily over a six week period. This was followed by a 24-hour internal radiotherapy treatment. Twelve months later, my cancer was back.

In January 1999 I was admitted to hospital for what my consultant described as major, major, major surgery - a procedure called pelvic extenteration - that's a full radical hysterectomy with removal of my bladder, bowel and a full pelvic clearance. At that time I was just 40-years-old.

After 11 hours of surgery I was told they had only needed to take away part of my bowel, only one bag was required to replace my bladder. For the next 14 months I was housebound as the remaining part of my bowel refused to work at all. I was only able to empty my bowel in the bath, using my fingers - anything up to 8 or 9 times, day and night.

They again blamed me but they did agree to send me to another consultant who did scans and lots of tests. He was angry to find that my bowel would never work again - all the nerve endings had been damaged during the pelvic extenteration. I was angry because a simple scan by the women's hospital would have highlighted the problem.

This consultant admitted me to hospital to take away the rest of my bowel and, when I went back six weeks later for a post op check, he could not believe I was the same person he had operated on. I had gained weight and for the first time in more than 14 months my health was starting to improve.

*

I had started a medical negligence case 18 months earlier and, at this time, it was going really well. My solicitor mostly visited me at home due to my poor health and the recovery periods from treatments and surgeries.

Two years after my pelvic extenteration procedure, during a visit to my home, I was signing some documents for him and I was shocked to discover that one specialist report read: “Sandra will never be able to have a NORMAL sexual life." Reading further, I discovered they had also removed my vagina and rectum and I could not believe no one had told me.

Between Christmas and the New Year of 2001, I had a letter from my solicitor to attend his office at 9am the following morning. I was a little surprised by the letter as his office was some way from my home. As I mentioned earlier, he normally visited my home on his way home as he lived quite close by.

The weather was bad, with the ground thick in snow, but I attended the appointment with my (now) ex-husband. My solicitor didn’t come out to meet me but when we entered his room he told us we had problems; that my case had collapsed. He advised me to drop all charges against the three hospitals. When I tried to question him, he put his fingers in his hears and started humming so that he couldn't hear me.

I refused to drop any of the charges until I had contacted medical experts to seek answers to my questions.

My 10-day trial was two weeks away when my solicitor applied to the trial judge to withdraw from the case. The judge refused on the grounds that, at such a late stage, I would not be able to get another solicitor to take on what was (by that time) five years work.

My solicitor then had my legal aid stopped - the only way he was able to get out of representing me. I was shocked to the core that, after five years and spending £50,000 of public funds, he was able to do this.

I did manage to find a lady solicitor to look over my case and she cried as she read my medical records. The mistakes were there for all to see but were very much worse than I had ever imagined. She explained my case had collapsed because of the multiple mistakes made by my solicitor at the start of the action.

I decided to take the case on myself. I was given three very large boxes filled with medical and legal records and I spent the next six months going over everything - hardly sleeping or eating. I was bullied to drop all charges and no-one I wrote to would help because I had no legal representation. But I did manage to get my case to trial though, deep down, I always realised I probably would not win.

The trial went really well and the Judge helped me as much as he could. Returning to court a couple of weeks later to hear the judgment, I was not exactly shocked to hear I had lost the case, it was just a relief that at last it was all over. It had been the most soul destroying experience to know that all the people who should have taken care of me had let me down so badly, and then blamed me for all their own mistakes. I learned the hard way about the unfairness of medical law but I think I understood why the judge's hands were tied.

After the judgment had been read out, the barrister for the NHS then asked for costs to be awarded against me. The judge told him he could take me to another court for costs if he so wished but made it perfectly clear that he would not be the judge to award the costs. As I had run up costs of £35,000 I told my family to have "Free Sandra" T-shirts printed.

*

I waited eagerly for the summons to attend court for the costs award but it never came. I had been looking forward to standing up in a court of law to tell them all I would never, ever pay a penny but obviously they thought better of it. They did not want my case heard again!

The full horror of these events is very much worse than I can put into words. I did try an appeal and I did try to sue my solicitor. But no matter what I tried, they stopped me at some point. I was told by one investigating solicitor that I should think more about my health and let things go because, after all, I did get one over on them (the NHS) just by getting my case to court! I was also told 'it wasn't like I'd lost anything'. Not lost anything? What about my life?

I also found pathology reports done on the tumour after it was removed during pelvic extenteration. Apparently the women's hospital was not happy with the results so they sent the samples to Manchester for a second opinion. Their report said the radiation did no damage whatsoever to the tumour. It had never gone away but had been left to grow for another 12 months after the radiotherapy. The specialist also couldn’t understand why I had been given radiotherapy in the fist place. She asked, "Was it because they thought the cancer was more advanced In 2005?"

I needed another massive 11 hours of bypass surgery to unblock pelvic arteries in the pelvic area caused by radiation damage. But my legal case was never about damages. I just wanted to try and prevent someone else going through the nightmare that not just I, but my whole family, had to go through. A simple "sorry" would have been enough but I got nothing.

This all took place at the same time as I was fighting another case to avoid losing my home. And I couldn’t do anything about it - I was to ill most of the time to even know what was going on with the house case.

Editorial Comment:

I am currently hearing so many stories from people who have suffered at the hands of our diabolical National Health Service that I could almost start a section devoted solely to the NHS. I might even do that if the feedback keeps increasing. Do you have a horror story that you believe people should know about? If you do, please let us know.


Julie Hodgson, Avis, Portugal writes:

Name and shame these bad doctors and solicitors. They must not get away with this? I really hope everything works out for you.

I now live in Portugal where the health care system is amazing! Just like it used to be in the UK in the 70's - clean with friendly co-operative staff. What on earth has happened in the UK? I'm SO glad I left.


Editorial Comment:

What happened is that New Labour got into power!


Helen of London writes:

I am horrified by these stories, I came across them looking for other people fighting with The NHS. I have organised a demonstration for end Feb, exact date to be arranged. The NHS is so corrupt it beggars belief. My husband was nearly left paralysed by QE hospital Woolwich. He was admitted via A&E after collapsing in agony. They refused him a bed told us it was probably a back spasm and to stay in the chair.

He did not know what to do with himself. He was eventually triaged, asked if he wanted a Paracetamol and then i was told to wheel him outside and wait.... we did, we waited and waited until eventually he was called. The junior doctor examined him and even when she could see he had no feeling in his leg or foot, she told me to take him home and to give him 2 Ibruprofen every 6-8 hours.

My daughter arrived thankfully and we arranged to get him transferred to a private hospital. An emergency MRI showed a disc had broken clean off and was rupturing his sciatic nerve. Had they not operated when they did he would have been paralysed by the very next day.

I have now become the advocate for the consultant whistleblower Ramon Niekrash and have a demonstration arranged for End Feb as I said, date to be confirmed. If you would like to become involved please leave your name in an email and I will get back to you ASAP . Another avenue to take to name and shame is whatdotheyknow.com freedom of information acts.


Miss Clark of Lincoln writes:

I to are in legal battle against the nhs. its almost 4 years and I think they stick together like a pack of wolves and my medical notes have been falsified past and present to conclude a hyperchondriacal disorder given to cover there mistake of almost killing me and falsely implying I have mental history and social worker.

For my children I did not but false letters to back up some changes they made. its bin a battle and a half - a long long story help or talking to some one who knows what lengths they go to keep it real its a sad sad way to treat the sufferers like we are in the wrong we just want justice and truth to be told. its never about the money stop it happening


Den Morrodnis of Plymouth writes:

After seeing four doctors at the same surgery in Stoke, Plymouth, Devon, over a ten month period in 2008 a fifth doctor at the same surgery finally diagnosed a Prostate problem - too late it had become advanced Prostate cancer.

Because I could get no recourse in the following two years I have finally built a web-site so that the four doctors will not forget me or, their actions in failing to diagnose my problem in 2008. 10,000 men likewise die annually because of misdiagnosis by doctors; all GP's who were sent Prostate Risk Management packs in - 2002 by the Department of Health.

http://sites.google.com/site/aprostateaffair/home



"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill


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