Bognor mother speaks out after three-year delay to terminal lung cancer diagnosis
A Bognor Regis woman has spoken out after Western Sussex Hospital Trust admitted a three-year delay in diagnosing her with terminal lung cancer.
Noreen Wileman, 68, of Middleton-on-Sea, Bognor Regis, was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2018 and is now calling for lessons to be learned.
After complaining to her GP of aching and painful muscles and joints and coughing up blood, she underwent a CT scan at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester in May 2015, the result of which showed irregularities. However, no follow up scan was ordered.
At an outpatient appointment in July 2015 to discuss the results of her CT scan, the nature of the changes to her lungs being unclear. Blood tests were ordered but despite the abnormalities on the scan, no further scans or follow up was arranged, and no further action was taken.
Her symptoms continued to deteriorate and while she and her GP contacted the hospital for the clinic letter from July 2015, it was not forthcoming. Following investigations and scanning in November 2018 doctors suspected she had lung cancer which was diagnosed as stage four lung cancer.
Following her diagnosis, Noreen, a former housekeeper, instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate her care under Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, responsible for St Richard’s Hospital.
The Trust admitted liability. It acknowledged if further follow up CT scans had been arranged in 2015, on the balance of probabilities, Noreen’s cancer would have been diagnosed by January 2016, some 35 months before it was.
With an earlier diagnosis, Noreen would also have avoided a significant reduction in her life expectancy, the Trust admitted.
Medical director Dr Tim Taylor said: "We would like to take this opportunity to apologise again to Mrs Wileman. The care we provided in 2015 fell short of our usual high standards and we deeply regret the delay to her diagnosis.
"We are all extremely sorry for the impact this has had on Mrs Wileman and her family. We hope the early admission of liability means their claim can now be swiftly resolve to help ease their pain at this difficult time."
Noreen, who lives with partner Mike Potter, aged 80, first started complaining of aching and painful joints and muscles in March 2015. At the end of March she underwent a chest X-ray, which showed an abnormality, at St Richard’s Hospital.
Following further medical appointments she attended the hospital for a CT scan on 5 May, 2015. An irregularity on Noreen’s lung was noted but no clear cause was diagnosed and no further up scan arranged.
Noreen visited her GP surgery complaining of a worsening cough, shortness of breath and green sputum later that month. She also visited the surgery again in early June 2015, when she raised concerns that she hadn’t received her CT scan results or any follow up from the hospital.
After the surgery wrote to the Trust with Noreen’s concerns she attended an outpatient appointment on 30 July, 2015. Although blood tests were arranged Noreen was not recalled for a follow up and no further action was taken.
Over the coming months Noreen continued to attend medical appointments and raised concerns she hadn’t received any tests results.
She was again referred to St Richard’s Hospital in November 2018 after developing a two-week cough and lesions on her lip.
Following her diagnosis Noreen underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy but doctors advised that her condition was incurable.
She said: “When I started attending hospital appointments in 2015 I was slightly concerned but at no point was I ever given the impression that anything major was wrong with me.
“I tried to remain active and was walking and gardening to try and stay fit but I started getting short of breath and developed a cough.
“I was frustrated at this but it got to the point where my cough and symptoms were that bad that I was referred again to the hospital. I had been chasing and waiting so long to hear about my previous tests, which made me think that nothing untoward was going on, however, the speed at which things were now moving was worrying.
“When I was given the news I had cancer I was just in complete shock.
“I found the chemotherapy treatment to be extremely invasive. I constantly felt nauseous and tired and lacking energy which is unusual as I’m usually a very get up and go person.
She added: “I generally now feel very tired day to day and I’m starting to become more breathless and suffering with a cough more and more.
“The worst part for me has been seeing how my family are suffering and how they’re watching me all the time. It’s very hard as I consider myself to be a very mentally strong person and I can cope with things okay, but seeing the worry on their faces is very difficult.
“I’m not sure what the future will hold for me and my family but I just hope that by speaking out I can help others. People need to see a doctor as soon as possible if they think there’s something wrong with them, ensure they receive their results, and if needs be, don’t take no for an answer and seek a second opinion.”
Eleanor Phipp, the specialist medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Noreen said: “Noreen is understandably devastated by her diagnosis and what it means for her and her family.
“While worrying issues have been admitted in Noreen’s case, it is vital people continue to seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity if they are concerned about their symptoms. People should also continue to participate in screening programmes.
“While nothing can make up for what has happened to Noreen, we’re pleased that we’ve been able to provide Noreen with the answers she deserves regarding her diagnosis and welcome the Trust’s admissions. Meanwhile Noreen awaits a letter of apology from the Trust.
“We hope that all lessons possible can now be learned to improve patient care and will continue to support Noreen and her family at this emotional time.”