Hospital Payout Over Mistaken Cancer Diagnosis

Nicky Broyd

December 16, 2020

A 53-year-old woman has received a £75,950 payout from East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust after being misdiagnosed with a rare blood cancer. 

Janice Johnston was told she had polythycaemia rubra vera (PRV) in April 2017 and she began 18 months of chemotherapy, causing side effects and weight loss.

She was advised to stop working as a St John Ambulance care home auxiliary nurse due to her compromised immune system.

Referral

Eventually Janice Johnston told the Kent and Canterbury Hospital doctors she felt the chemotherapy wasn’t working and she wanted to try other treatment options.

She was referred to Guy’s Hospital in London where specialists arranged for her to have, for the first time, an ultrasound scan and bone marrow biopsy before confirming she did not have cancer.

However, she did have the non-malignant condition secondary polycythaemia which causes the body to over-produce red blood cells.

In January 2019, she took her medical negligence case to Girlings Personal Injury Claims.

The solicitors sought the opinion of an independent consultant haematologist who confirmed the initial PRV diagnosis should not have been made without an ultrasound scan and bone marrow biopsy.

The East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust admitted liability in January 2020 and the claim was settled after negotiations.

Stressed and Angry

In a statement, Janice Johnston said: "The chemotherapy made me feel absolutely awful. I was so poorly that I wasn't living, I was just existing. I kept telling the hospital that I didn’t feel the chemo was helping but they just increased the dose each time. When I was finally told that I didn't have cancer, rather than feel relieved, I felt stressed and incredibly angry. If only I had been given the bone marrow biopsy and ultrasound scan from the outset, all of this could have been avoided.

"I even featured in a newspaper article to try and raise awareness of this form of blood cancer. I now feel like a total fraud and am mortified that people might think that I made it all up."

Her solicitor, Shantala Carr, said: "This is a case where straightforward investigations, which were not carried out, could have avoided the immense physical and emotional suffering that Janice went through and continues to go through.

"Not only did she have to deal with the emotional anguish of thinking she had cancer but she had to give her husband and four children the devastating news. She then suffered terrible side effects for nearly 2 years and lost her job as a result. Although she now knows she doesn’t have cancer, she is still recovering physically and emotionally. Failings like this that can impact someone’s life in such a drastic way are simply not acceptable."

Apology

An East Kent Hospitals spokesperson said: "A misdiagnosis of this kind is exceptionally rare and we wholeheartedly apologise to Ms Johnston for the omission in her care."

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