Family win legal fight after health blunders

Margaret Davis
Margaret Davis

A FAMILY have won a legal fight against health chiefs after a series of blunders saw a much-loved mum suffer “horrendous trauma” in the months before she died.

Margaret Davis was 63 when she lost her fight for life in August 2010 after being diagnosed with rectal cancer.

But it later emerged that her treatment had been littered with errors – including a misdiagnosis and an administrative mistake which saw her confused for another patient suffering with a mental illness.

Her medical file contained a mental health care plan and reviews for schizophrenia which Mrs Davis had never suffered from.

Health bosses have apologised but do not believe “it had any adverse effect on her life expectancy”.

Following her death, her outraged family launched a legal fight against South Tees NHS Foundation Trust to get “answers and justice” for the mum-of-two and grandmother-of-three.

Today they revealed to the Mail that they had won an undisclosed sum – but said their fight had never been about the money.

“When my mam was laid in her hospital bed one of the last things she said to me were ‘promise me you’ll get me justice’,” said Lisa Deane, Margaret’s 44-year-old daughter.

“That is why we started this fight against the trust. It was never about the money, it was about the horrendous trauma that my mam went through in the 12 months before she died.

“She was the most caring person you could ever meet and she was mine, my brother’s and my dad’s best friend.

“We miss her more than words can say and we know this will never bring her back. It was about justice.”

Margaret’s husband Peter, a retired marine engineer, said: “She was treated appallingly. She wasn’t a patient, she was a number.

“I miss my wife so much, I miss her every day.”

Mrs Davis had experienced rectal bleeding and went to see her GP about it on June 11, 2009, who referred her for tests at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, which wrongly came back as “normal”.

The former carer, of Mowbray Road, in the Fens area of Hartlepool, was discharged back to her GP without further investigation.

But after suffering continuing problems she was referred back to hospital less than a month later.

However, an administration error saw this appointment mixed up with another patient, causing further delay to her diagnosis.

On September 9, 2009, a CT scan confirmed that Mrs Davis, also mum to Gavin Davis, 42, a health and safety officer, had an advanced rectal tumour and despite undergoing an advanced course of chemotherapy her condition deteriorated.

Medics decided that surgery would no longer be an option, and she eventually lost her brave fight.

After admitting there was a high possibility of a tumour being present when Mrs Davis was first examined, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has now admitted breach of duty, although it is not possible to establish whether the delay in diagnosis led to her premature death.

Lisa, a mum-of-one, an operations director of a care organisation, of Boston Close, Hartlepool, said the misdiagnosis had a devastating impact on her mum leaving her “deeply distressed during the final months of her life”.

She said: “At a time when she should have been concentrating on fighting her condition and spending time together as a family she was struggling to come to terms with how the hospital could have got it so wrong.”

Philip Thompson, clinical negligence specialist for Thompson and Co solictors which acted on behalf of the family, said: “Time and again our firm is faced with cases which involve basic medical errors that have a devastating effect on the lives of an entire family.

“Unfortunately this settlement has come too late for Mrs Davis, but it was extremely important to both her and her family that the Trust learns from its mistakes so that they never happen to another patient.

“We welcome the news that procedures at the hospital have been changed as a result of Mrs davis’ case.”

A spokeswoman for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is sorry that there was a short delay in the diagnosis which was obviously distressing to Mrs Davis, but we do not believe it had any adverse effect on her life expectancy.

“We are pleased this has been resolved and we know this has been a difficult time for the family. A settlement has been agreed and damages have been paid.”