"Trouble getting an appointment-leads to neglected cancer case."

About: Stepping Hill Hospital Tameside General Hospital / Colorectal surgery The Christie

(as a relative),

My mother was waiting for an appointment with a consultant, Mr Saddique (Aplogies if spelling is incorrect), at Tameside Hospital, in order to arrange a colonoscopy,which was advised by her GP. After a wait of around 2 months and subsequent to her initial appointment being cancelled, I decided to ring the appointment department to find out why my mother had not been contacted again. She was by now feeling very poorly.

I asked the clerk (to whom I apportion no blame whatsoever for the response) when my mother might expect another appointment. She repied, "It could be tomorrow, it could be 6 weeks. Mr Saddique's clinic has been suspended and we don't know when it will resume." I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing so just for good measure I repeated the information, "So you are telling me that you have no idea when my mother might expect an appointment?" Response, "Yes, that's right. I'm very sorry but I can't tell you anything else. You could contact your GP to arrange something at another hospital."

Following this I contacted her GP and she was referred to Stepping Hill. Unfortunately, my mother had already waited for an extended period of time for Tameside Hospital to get in touch and sadly, due to the excessive pain she was experiencing, she could wait no longer. I took her to Stepping Hill Emergency Department, where she was admitted and diagnosed a week later, after several tests, with cancer of the bowel, stomach and liver.

Considering that early detection of cancer is paramount in terms of successful outcomes, Tameside would have failed miserably on this count. Who knows, my mother could well still be waiting had we not seized the intiative! Thank goodness there were other options available to us. If you find yourself in the same sad predicament as my mother, don't sit around and wait for someone to get back to you. Do what we did, be proactive and get to an A&E Department. In this way you have to be dealt with there and then - bypass the beaurocracy.

So much for the effeciency and care offered by Tameside Hospital! Please don't think this treatise is a criticism of the NHS, it most definitely is not. The care my mother has received at Stepping HIll & from Christie's has been outstanding. I sincerely believe the NHS is the jewel in our crown and the envy of the world. I am truly grateful for an NHS and would fight 100% to protect it.

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Response from Philip Dylak, Director of Nursing, Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust

Thank you for submitting your comments. I am very sorry that you had cause for a complaint and that our services fell below the standards you and the hospital expects. Without knowing your mothers exact details, it is difficult to respond to all issues you raised. However I hope the following will be of value and some reassurance to you. The hospital has very clear systems of responding to referrals based on the urgency or less urgent needs of the individual patients. This is based on the specific patient details provided by the referring GP. All suspected cancer referrals will always be seen within 2 weeks of referral. Unfortunately it may be that the referral received by the hospital concerning your mother, was not listed as an urgent request by the GP, but I cannot confirm this without all the specific details. It appears from the details you highlight that this referral was received as a new ‘routine’ referral. However despite this, it is very unusual for consultant clinic’s to be suspended and would only occur due to unforeseen circumstances. The national waiting time standard for all out patient appointments including all lower gastro - intestinal ‘bowel’ referrals is to be seen within 13 weeks of referral, Tameside hospital aims to see patients within 5 weeks to provide an even speedier and more efficient service. If the clinics are canceled the next available appointment is always provided within this timescale. The hospital also ensures that all appointments for “routine” diagnostic investigations do not exceed 6 weeks, this would include appointment dates for a colonoscopy. I am sorry that on this occasion, this did not happen. The hospital does have a very good record of success in all cancer treatment and as such upholds a reputation for meeting national targets and high standards of care. I agree that the receptionist was not to blame but that a more helpful, caring and sensitive response to you, during a very distressing time for you and your Mother, would have been more appropriate and less dismissive. Thank you for raising theses issues. I will endeavour to ensure that they are addressed locally to avoid repetition in the future. I hope this is an acceptable response to you, and once again I apologise for the distress and anxiety this has caused both yourself and your mother. If you would like to discuss your concerns further, please contact me at philip.dylak@tgh.nhs.uk
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