Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman Produces Damning Report in Debbie Westwick’s Breast Cancer Care Complaint Case

The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman has now produced a report dealing with the complaints of our client, Debbie Westwick, in relation to the breast cancer treatment she received from the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and the East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The details of Debbie’s case have appeared in previous news articles.

Debbie was diagnosed with cancer of the left breast back in 2006.

Subsequently she received oncology treatment from Dr Howard Smedley (employed by the Maidstone Trust) with surgical treatment from Mr David Jackson (employed by the East Kent Trust).

The former was subject to GMC undertakings (unbeknownst to Debbie) whilst the latter was suspended from practice during the course of her treatment.

GMC proceedings against David Jackson remain outstanding.  Debbie’s complaint to the GMC about Dr Smedley resulted in him being removed from the medical register in June of last year.

Debbie’s claim for compensation was settled during 2009.

Beyond this, however, she brought complaints to both Trusts highlighting the systemic failings in her care.

The Ombudsman, after conducting a thorough investigation, has made important findings in two areas:-

Firstly, the Ombudsman has found that the responses by both Trusts, to Debbie’s complaints, were inadequate to the point of amounting to “mal-administration”.

Secondly, the Ombudsman has recognised the clinical failings in Debbie’s care, particularly the fact that residual tumour was left, following Debbie’s initial lumpectomy, the fact that she had radio therapy treatment to her breast when it was due to be removed in any event and the fact that infected lymph nodes were left untreated.

Nick Fairweather, who represents Debbie, commented:-

”This hard hitting report pulls no punches in exposing, in great detail, the appalling failings in the treatment that Debbie received, nor in lambasting both these Trusts for their failure to deal with Debbie’s profound concerns which she raised not only on behalf of herself but on behalf of women dependent on the Trust as past and future patients. 

It has been a real ‘David and Goliath’ struggle, with Debbie facing down the full might of the NHS and succeeding in highlighting the terrible treatment she received in four different arenas now – the Court, the GMC, the PHSO and, importantly, through the media, to whom we are most grateful.  Coverage of her case has been very important and it has featured, extensively, in the local media (Kent Messenger and BBC Radio Kent) as well as the National media (Private Eye and Sunday Times).  It is right that we record that, without this coverage, we do not believe we would have succeeded in exposing the failings that occurred.  Debbie is very poorly now (she is terminally ill) but feels vindicated, as she should, by the PHSO findings. 

I pay tribute, once again, to her courage, tenacity and dignity at all points”.