Press Release – East Kent Woman sues local NHS Trusts alleging fundamental blunders in her breast cancer treatment

We have today issued proceedings on behalf of a local woman, ‘Miss W’, against 3 NHS Trusts alleging wholesale systemic failings in the treatment she received for breast cancer.The Trusts involved are the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust, the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and the Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Our client, who does not wish to be named, was diagnosed with multi focal grade I cancer of the left breast at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in July 2006.

Thereafter, she was treated by the Oncological and Surgical Teams at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. The Breast Cancer Centre there is the responsibility of the Maidstone and Tunbridge NHS Trust as part of the Kent Oncology Centre.

Unbeknownst to our client, the Chief Consultant in charge of her Oncological care, Dr Smedley, was the subject of undertakings given to the GMC that his work be supervised at the time.

Despite this, his forthright views as to the correct treatment path to follow were, it seems, pursued unchecked.

On top of this, the Lead Surgical Consultant, Mr Jackson, was suspended by the local East Kent Trust at a key point in Miss W’s treatment, never to return to his post (nor, as we understand it, to medical practice at all).

The proceedings, which are backed by eminent experts in the fields of Oncology and Breast Cancer Surgery, allege four fundamental failings in Miss W’s treatment.

Firstly, she was treated initially by way of a lumpectomy, (an attempt remove the tumour) when an immediate mastectomy was mandated due to the tumour being multi focal.

Secondly, when histology from the lumpectomy showed that the tumour had not been fully removed, the Hospital still then failed to proceed to mastectomy.

Thirdly, histology from the original operation also showed that 4 out of 7 lymph nodes that had been removed for sampling were infected, which mandated an axillary clearance. This too was not undertaken.

Instead of taking these measures, Dr Smedley was insistent upon Miss W undergoing chemotherapy to treat the local disease and a course of chemotherapy followed in December 2006.

It then appears that Dr Smedley and Mr Jackson were at odds as to whether Miss W needed a mastectomy.

This gave rise to the fourth fundamental error namely subjecting Miss W to radiotherapy to the breast when it was to be removed by mastectomy in any event.

A mastectomy scheduled to take place, finally, in June 2007 was then cancelled due to Mr Jackson’s suspension.

It is alleged that the East Kent Trust failed to support Miss W adequately at that point.

When clinicians from East Grinstead and at the Royal Marsden Hospital questioned the treatment Miss W had received, both Mr Jackson (by then suspended) and Dr Smedley stood by their decisions.

Ultimately, Miss W’s treatment was transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead where she underwent a mastectomy with reconstruction procedure in September 2007.

Incredibly, when the reconstruction failed, those treating Miss W at East Grinstead negligently left a (non surgical) gauze swab in her operation wound which caused raging ongoing infection which Miss W still suffers with to this day.

Nick Fairweather, of Fairweathers Solicitors, based in Station Road West, Canterbury, who represents Miss W, commented today:-

“It is difficult to envisage a case where more profound errors were made on such a systemic, repeated, basis.

Miss W’s treatment breached clear national and local guidelines for breast cancer treatment.

For such a fundamental error to have been made, additionally, at East Grinstead, in relation to the gauze, simply beggars belief.

To add insult to injury the East Kent Trust has failed to respond to a detailed Letter of Claim, sent back in March, pursuant to the Pre Action Protocol for Clinical Disputes.

The Trust’s Chief Executive has also ignored a complaint letter sent on Miss W’s behalf back in May which we asked to be copied to the Trust Chairman.  A chasing email sent at the beginning of August has also been ignored.

We have referred Dr Smedley to the GMC.

We will be meeting with Senior Counsel and the experts in the case on Monday to discuss all issues pertaining to the claim fully including Miss W’s optimum treatment options now.

I pay tribute to her courage and resolve in taking these various forms of action over her treatment.  It is something that she should not have to do, on top of fighting cancer”

Miss W commented:-

“I put my trust in these doctors and the hospital and feel badly let down. I only became aware of many of the failings in my treatment when I had access to my medical notes for the purpose of these proceedings. It is bad enough being diagnosed with cancer without then discovering that your treatment has been substandard. All I wanted initially was answers and to be ignored by the Trust on top of everything else really has added insult to injury. Cancer victims are very vulnerable. You rely on your doctors to give you the best advice and appropriate care. I hope that lessons are learned from this case to prevent such blunders in the future.”

If you are interested in contacting us regarding this case, please click here.