Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 18:48 UK

Patient insulted on answerphone

Sharon Roberts
Personal comments about Sharon Roberts were recorded

A hospital has apologised after staff inadvertently left an insulting message on a teenage patient's telephone.

The message said Sharon Roberts, 19, was a "smelly drunk with black teeth".

It was left by staff at the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, who were reminding her about an appointment - but then carried on talking.

Miss Roberts, of Stockton, said she was disgusted. The hospital said that what had happened was unacceptable and an investigation was being carried out.

The message was from the Genito Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic.

Apparently looking at medical notes, staff discussed her alcohol consumption, alleged to be 100 units a week, and chatted about her Iraqi Kurdish boyfriend.

One woman in the office said to another: "Oh yeah, but come on, who else is going to have her, bless her.

"She smells, she had black teeth. She's a typical either druggie or alkie because she's dead skinny."

'Right to dignity'

Miss Roberts said: "I was really disgusted when I heard it. I felt physically sick.

"They said I drink 100 units a week but that was a load of rubbish. I don't drink that much and I've never touched drugs in my life.

"I had anorexia when I was younger and that's why I'm so thin. I want compensation and I want them sacked."

South Tees Hospital NHS chief executive Simon Pleydell said: "We would like to apologise unreservedly to Miss Roberts for the distress this has caused.

"Everyone has a right to dignity, respect and confidentiality and what has happened is totally unacceptable.

"The trust has launched a major internal investigation and we will keep Miss Roberts informed of its progress."

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