Banburyshire woman who says she was 'fobbed off' with vitamins was suffering from cancer

A Banburyshire woman has complained to her GP surgery about 'sub-standard' treatment after her cancer was missed for months.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 1:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 5:07 pm
Horsefair Surgery is conducting an investigation

The woman - whose does not wish to be named - waited six months after first describing her symptoms to get a diagnosis of lymphoma.

She says when a blood test was eventually done, she was 'fobbed off' with vitamin tablets.

The surgery is investigating the matter and has told the Banbury Guardian it cannot comment until that process is complete.

The woman, who lives near Banbury, said: "Approximately six months ago at a routine check with the diabetic nurse I told her I was suffering from severe fatigue among other symptoms and had been suffering for quite a while.

"She was concerned and advised me to see a doctor as soon as possible as she felt it could be a serious issue. I made an appointment to see 'a doctor' there was nothing available for six weeks but at the time I was prepared to wait as I wanted to see an actual doctor.

"This appointment was booked over the phone with a receptionist. The day before my appointment I got a text reminding me of my appointment and on the day I turned up in good time and logged into the automated reception screen. I was told by the computer to wait. I waited for 40 minutes before talking to the reception team, who then informed me my appointment was not with a doctor, as I had specifically requested, but with a practice nurse - and that she was off sick.

"They weren’t sure why I had had my appointment confirmed or why I had not been informed that day that the appointment would not happen. I did not receive an apology. I went away unhappy and decided to leave it but my condition was getting worse so I re-booked using the online booking system because that way, I knew I could choose to see a doctor," she said.

"I attended this appointment and saw a doctor but on discovering I had extreme tiredness he ended the appointment after 30 seconds stating he needed to see a blood test result. He did not offer to do the blood test and asked no further questions. He told me to book in with a nurse to take the blood sample. He had no interest in any further symptoms and dismissed me. I had to go back to get the blood test done."

The patient said she waited 'a few weeks' until a receptionist telephoned to say the results showed a Vitamin D deficiency. These vitamins were prescribed in tablet form, to be collected from the chemist. She was not invited back for another appointment.

It was only in December when she went for a routine mammogram that abnormalities in the woman's lymphatic system were picked up.

"It appears I have Lymphoma, which is cancer and I am now being treated by The Churchill Hospital," the woman said. "Had I seen a doctor when I first booked an appointment with Horsefair Surgery and had that doctor taken my concerns seriously and spent any time at all with me discussing my symptoms and ordering the correct tests, I should now be well into what ever course of treatment the cancer specialists have seen fit to prescribe."

The patient has written a stern letter of complaint to Horsefair Surgery calling on managers to ensure receptionists do not change GP appointments to practice nurse sessions without consultation with the patient; that individuals should be informed if the practitioner they are booked to see is unavailable that day, and that new appointments should be allocated as soon as possible.

She has asked that if a doctor feels a blood test is required, he/she should take the blood there and then and use the rest of the appointment discussing what symptoms the patient is experiencing, not simply dismiss them. Fourthly she has asked that receptionists do not phone to deliver the doctor's diagnosis - that doctors do this themselves in person, to discuss matters with the patient.

And lastly she has demanded that patients are allocated to full-time doctors who can build up a 'feel' for each patient and therefore be in a better position to diagnose.

"I feel very strongly about these points and expect practice procedures to be overhauled. I have cancer and was fobbed off with vitamin D which is totally unacceptable," she said.

Tracy Feist, practice manager for Horsefair Surgery, told the Banbury Guardian: "We are sorry to learn that the patient has felt it necessary to contact the press within the same time frame as contacting the practice and our investigation beginning.

"We are unable to respond until our investigation is complete. During any investigation we endeavour to be as quick as possible with response but this can vary depending on the complexity of the investigation. We have acknowledged receipt of the complaint and will follow procedure to ensure the patient concerned has a thorough and balanced response."

In a further statement, spokesman Rosie Maltby said: "“Complaints are taken very seriously and the process of investigation is underway. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this stage.”

Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep The Horton General, said: "The effect of the financial restrictions on the NHS has been putting so much pressure on GPs that many have left the service. The last three Horsefair GPs, out of a total of nine, left together several years ago after which the surgery was taken over by a private company.

"This shortage of GPs means surgeries are depending on locums and more and more patients are being seen by other practitioners who are not trained GPs. There was always a worry that patients would slip through the net and this is one worrying example where the pressures on the surgery have ended up with a patient's diagnosis being unacceptably delayed.

"Simply, the NHS needs a lot more money and more concentration on training the medical staff needed in GP surgeries and hospitals."

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which has been overseeing restructuring of the county's GP surgeries, declined to comment pending the outcome of Horsefair's investigation.