Independent report

Hospital fails to diagnose breast cancer

A report by the Health Service Ombudsman on an investigation into West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust



This report is about Ms G, a mother of 41 with a teenage son. A hospital failed to detect Ms G’s breast cancer until it was too late and her condition had become terminal.

Ms G complained to us about the specialist breast service at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust. Our investigation found that in May 2010, the Trust did not carry out appropriate tests and wrongly reassured Ms G that she did not have breast cancer. By the time Ms G sought further medical help in December 2011, the cancer had spread from her breast to other parts of her body, and was terminal.

This case is a reminder for trusts to examine suspected cancer cases thoroughly and to exclude the possibility of cancer before reaching a less serious diagnosis. While it is encouraging that the Trust has learnt from this complaint and made changes to the way it supports and monitors patients who are referred to it on the cancer pathway, this has come too late for Ms G.

The investigative report that follows is an anonymised version of the report we issued to Ms G when we completed our investigation in September 2014.