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350k payout after doctors miss Bridgend woman's cancer

26 March 10 13:21 GMT

The family of a mother who died from cancer after being sent home three times by a hospital have received a £350,000 out of court settlement.

University student Lavinia Bletchly, 23, from Bridgend, was told by one consultant at the Princess of Wales Hospital she was imagining she was ill.

Most of the settlement will go to her daughters, now aged nine and six.

ABM University Health Board admitted liability but said an inquiry found no evidence of "gross failings" by staff.

Miss Bletchly, who was a full time student at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff (Uwic), first became unwell in May 2004, just a few months after the birth of her second child.

The family's legal representatives Irwin Mitchell solicitors said a number of examinations during the next eight months ruled out gynaecological problems but she continued to complain of pain in her abdomen and pelvis.

In February 2005 a pelvic ultrasound revealed a cyst and an exploratory operation revealed fluid above the liver.

The solicitors said over the next three weeks she was admitted on three separate occasions to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.

They said at one point she was told by a senior consultant that there was no medical reason for the pain she claimed to be in and should instead seek psychiatric attention.

On 7 March 2005 she underwent a CT scan leading to further surgery which revealed an extensive malignant tumour had encased her bowel and spread up to her stomach.

Despite an urgent programme of chemotherapy she then suffered a ruptured bowel which caused peritonitis, leading to multi-organ failure.

She died from malignant non-Hodgkin lymphoma and peritonitis on 24 March 2005 leaving behind two daughters.

The Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABM) University Health Board agreed an out of court financial settlement earlier this year.

As it compensates Miss Bletchly's children for the loss of dependency on their mother the settlement needed to be approved by the High Court in Cardiff.

'Lessons learned'

High Court judge Anthony Seys-Llewellyn QC paid tribute to the girls' father - Lavinia's boyfriend Justin Tellem.

The judge said: "This settlement gives the certainty of a very substantial damages for the dependants of Lavinia.

"Her two young daughters are in the care of an excellent father and a close and warm family.

"I record their father's admirable will to ensure their interest in this settlement."

Miss Bletchly's family said they had not been told if disciplinary action was taken or whether lessons had been learned.

They want the case investigated further.

Outside court Lavinia's father, Arthur Bletchly, 57, said: "Since July last year we have been in a dog fight to sort out how much compensation her two little kids should have, so today is a good day.

"They are lovely little girls and have kept us going. Lavinia just wanted to see her children grow up and get married. She loved them so much.

"When Lavinia was in hospital in Newport she didn't have the strength to speak, so she wrote me a letter.

"It said, 'We have got to fight the [hospital] trust for everything we can get for my two little girls'.

"But it's never going to replace their mum. Compensation is no compensation."

The ABM University Health Board said it again offered its sincere condolences to the family.

"Incidents of this kind are taken very seriously and a full inquiry was carried out by the former Bro Morgannwg NHS Trust at the time, which included investigations by several independent clinical experts," it said in a statement.

"We were assured by the reports from the independent clinical experts, which produced no evidence of any 'gross failings' on the part of hospital staff.

"We are always anxious to learn lessons from incidents like these to ensure everything can be done to reduce the risk of them reoccurring.

"A decision was taken to settle this claim out of court to avoid prolonged legal proceedings which could result in substantial costs."

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