Portsmouth patients wrongly given cancer all-clear

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Shock as patients at Portsmouth hospital suffer ‘significant harm’ when wrongly given cancer all-clear

There has been widespread shock following the news that patients at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth have come to ‘significant harm’ after a backlog of 23,000 chest x-rays were not reviewed by a radiologist or an appropriately trained clinician.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have found that the hospital failed to spot cases of lung cancer because it did not check patients’ x-rays properly, instead using untrained junior doctors to interpret them.

As a result, there have been three ‘serious incidents’ at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust. The cases involved patients who were given chest x-rays after arriving in A&E. In the first case, the junior doctor reported there was ‘no abnormality’ only for a radiologist to detect lung cancer a year later, after a GP referral. The cancer was visible on the first x-ray.

The same happened on the second case, with advanced lung cancer found in a second set of scans, 10 months after the patient was given the all-clear. Both patients have sadly since died. A third case in which a patient is in the advanced stages of lung cancer is currently under investigation.

Professor Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “When a patient is referred for an x-ray or scan, it is important that the resulting images are examined and reported on by properly trained clinical staff who know what they are looking for – this is a specialist skill.

“During our inspection of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, however, some junior doctors told us that they had been given responsibility for reviewing chest and abdomen x-rays without appropriate training although they felt that they were not competent or confident to do so. We then learned of some cases where signs of lung cancer were missed, with serious consequences for the patients involved. This is clearly unacceptable”.

The CQC has now ordered all NHS bodies in England to provide details about their backlogs, turnaround times, staffing and arrangements for routine reporting of all images.

All 23,000 scans at the Queen Alexandra Hospital will now be checked for signs of disease and patients will be informed if their disease has been overlooked.

Darren O’Sullivan, Director of Novum Law who heads up our Isle of Wight office and specialises in medical negligence claims, said: “This is clearly an extremely worrying time for patients who’ve been x-rayed at the hospital or are currently undergoing treatment there. We deal with many medical negligence cases involving the misdiagnosis of diseases but to see a scandal on this scale involving such a widespread failure in diagnostic patient care is unbelievable.

“Early detection and diagnosis of serious illnesses, such as cancer, are of paramount importance and can significantly improve patients’ survival rates. In this day and age patients shouldn’t have to go through such a horrendous ordeal due to the negligence of healthcare providers.”

If you need any help or advice, you can call us on 01983 216964 or email: dosullivan@novumlaw.com.

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