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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Apology ordered over cancer delay
Stirling Royal Infirmary
Mr C was told his cancer was inoperable
Health officials have been told by a watchdog to apologise to the widow of a cancer patient who waited eight months to see a doctor.

The patient, known only as Mr C, had two follow-up appointments at Stirling Royal Infirmary cancelled.

He was told his cancer was inoperable when he eventually saw a doctor.

NHS Forth Valley admitted "undesirable delays" and the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) upheld Mrs C's complaint.

SPSO judged that a timely follow-up was not arranged for Mr C who died in March 2006, eight months after he was told his cancer was inoperable.

However, the watchdog did not agree with another complaint that the patient was not provided with treatment following his diagnosis.

No record

In 2003, Mr C had surgery for colon cancer.

Blood tests in October 2004 suggested the disease may have returned and an appointment with a consultant was scheduled for January 2005.

Mrs C said that it was cancelled, although NHS Forth Valley had no record of that and had recorded that Mr C did not attend.

I recommended that the Board apologise to the complainant for the delays in arranging the follow-up appointment
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

A subsequent appointment in April 2005 was cancelled because the consultant was on study leave.

Mr C did not see a doctor until June 2005, and was told the next month that the cancer had returned and was inoperable.

The SPSO, Professor Alice Brown, said: "I upheld the complaint that the board did not arrange timely follow-up for the complainant's husband, Mr C, but I did not uphold the complaint that they had not provided him with appropriate treatment following his diagnosis of cancer.

"I recommended that the board apologise to the complainant for the delays in arranging the follow-up appointment and requested that they send me a copy of their finalised policy on Patient Access, which will address the problems identified in this case."

Ms Brown's report said NHS Forth Valley had "concluded that there had been undesirable delays in Mr C's appointments which may have influenced his later management".

It added: "The question of the 'cancelled' January 2005 appointment could not be explained but the subsequent delay was unacceptable and had been highlighted to staff in order to raise awareness and review current practices with a view to making necessary changes."

NHS Forth Valley chief executive, Fiona Mackenzie, said: "We note the specific comments of the ombudsman's report in relation to the delays in arranging a timely follow-up appointment.

"We fully accept the redress and recommendations and are taking the appropriate action to implement them."

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