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Health Correspondent, Fergus Walsh
"The government has ordered an enquiry"
 real 28k

Thursday, 13 January, 2000, 18:18 GMT
Cancer inoperable after flu delay

Mavis Skeet was waiting for cancer surgery


A cancer patient whose operation was cancelled four times because of the flu crisis has been told her tumour is now inoperable.

Flu nightmare
Mavis Skeet, 74, had been waiting for five weeks to find out if her cancer of the oesophagus had spread.

However, a shortage of beds at Leeds General Infirmary led to the repeated cancellation of her operation.

An earlier scan had been hopeful, showing the cancer had not spread, but five weeks later the scan revealed it had spread to her windpipe, rendering an operation impossible.



My mum and dad have paid all their lives into the NHS. At the moment they feel totally let down
Jane Skeet, daughter
Health Secretary Alan Milburn told the BBC he had ordered an full report on the case.

The operation might also have allowed Mrs Skeet to eat and drink rather than being fed through a tube.

Her daughter Jane told the BBC: "Had they operated five weeks ago the tumour was operable and could have been removed. Now they can't operate.


Jane Skeet: "They feel totally let down"
"My mum and dad have paid all their lives into the NHS. At the moment they feel totally let down."

The news has brought immediate condemnation from opposition parties.

Dr Liam Fox, the Conservative health spokesman, said: "Quite clearly this is not an isolated case and the NHS is not coping.

"The truth is that the NHS at the beginning of the 21st century in the world's fifth biggest economy is being brought to its knees by something as simple as a bout of flu."

Dr Peter Brand, health spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "This case illustrates that a health service that is constantly under pressure can't deliver a quality service."

Mr Milburn said: "I have already asked for a full report into Mrs Skeet's treatment and care.

"What is clear is that hospitals have come under real pressure this winter.

"I am clear we have to go on increasing the number of intensive care beds."

Oesophageal cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer.

David Johnson, chief executive of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: "The regional office of the NHS Executive will be conducting the inquiry which the Secretary of State has requested.

"Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will of course co-operate fully with it.

"I very much regret the distress which has been caused to Mrs Skeet and her family.

"The treatment of Mrs Skeet's complex clinical problems continues.

"Discussions between clinical staff and the patient and family about the most appropriate course of treatment following recent diagnostic tests are still taking place.
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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  Health
Cancer surgery postponed four times
12 Jan 00 |  Health
People are suffering, admits Blair
13 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu 'may have peaked'
10 Jan 00 |  Health
Operations cancelled as flu bites
10 Jan 00 |  Health
Coping with the outbreak: One hospital's story
09 Jan 00 |  Health
NHS on its knees, say Tories

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