KGH error killed my dad

A Rushden grandfather died after his cancer went untreated - despite being detectable on a scan almost two years earlier.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 6:00 am
Steve Sampson (right) with his uncle and Derek's younger brother Henry.

Steve Sampson is pursuing a negligence claim after Kettering General Hospital's catastrophic error caused the death of his dad Derek.

A report from a colonogram and endoscopy in 2015 said there was no tumour but when Derek went for another scan in 2017 he was told he had terminal cancer. He died aged 85 in October 2018 but it was only after his death that an investigation found the cancer was identifiable on the 2015 scan.

KGH said its imaging service was under "extreme pressure" at the time - and there are at least two other similar cases ongoing.

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Derek with Steve and his grandchildren, from left to right: Lauren (Renette's youngest daughter), Vikki (Steve's daughter), Alex (Steve's son) and Katie (Renette's oldest daughter).

Steve, 55, said: "Someone has got to be held accountable for this and we do not want it happening again. This has cost a life and there may be others.

"How many are there? 10, 50-odd? They have screwed up."

Car part salesman Derek was a "muscular, fit and healthy" 82-year-old when he went to see his GP on December 7, 2015. He was referred for a two-week scan and a CT report, completed on Christmas Eve, said "no gross abnormality is shown in the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, spleen or pancreas".

Steve, the director of a sports firm, said: "We thought everything was OK.

Derek in 2016. At this time he had cancer but nobody knew because of the missed results in 2015.

"We just carried on for two years until the pain got so bad we told him he had to go and get it checked out again."

Derek, who lived in Newton Road, was referred for another scan on September 19, 2017, and was later told he had cancer and that he would need palliative care. Steve said he was left to explain to his own dad that he was dying because the doctor did not make it clear that palliative meant his cancer was terminal. He also had to break the news to his sister Renette who had moved to Tenerife.

The cancer covered virtually his whole bowel and part of his liver and peritoneum. After an operation and several rounds of chemotherapy he died on October 4, 2018.

After a query about how the cancer was so advanced in the space of two years, the family was told there was an internal investigation into Derek's death in January this year.

Kettering General Hospital has apologised for the mistake.

Five months later in June Steve picked up a letter from KGH and originally thought it was in reference to a query he had made about an acronym on a patient information board above his dad's hospital bed.

He said: "I could not believe what it said. I had to read it five or six times.

"It was a massive kick in the teeth. Dad did all of the right things, he went to get it checked out, and the result was he died."

In the letter, the hospital admitted Derek's cancer could be seen in the scan produced in 2015 and put the blunder down to human error.

Derek at his daughter's wedding in 1990.

They said that there was no direct cause for the human error but that, at the time of the missed cancer in 2015, their imaging service was under extreme pressure to meet the workload demand - particularly for the reporting capacity.

The letter added that reporting radiologists were working with a "significant" backlog. Six months later the hospital moved to a new imaging system, causing further delays and backlogs for patients.

Steve said someone "didn't do their job properly" on Christmas Eve in 2015. But he has no idea what, if any, disciplinary action they have faced.

Kettering General Hospital’s medical director Prof Andrew Chilton said: “We would like to, once again, offer our most sincere apologies to Mr Sampson’s family for our reporting error.

“The incident has been investigated and we have shared our findings with his family.”

Derek's death had a huge impact on the family. On Valentine's Day, months after he died, Derek's wife and Steve's mum Zofia suffered a massive stroke.

Zofia was a Polish refugee who came to England in 1948 having fled with her family from the Russians in the Second World War. She never fully recovered from her stroke and died in September this year.

Steve added: "In a way I blame KGH for both of them slowly disappearing.

"She could not get over the fact that she had him by her side for just over 60 years and then he was not there."

He is now pursuing a negligence claim over KGH's error through Wilson Browne solicitors. The firm, which has branches across the county, is also working with two other families about similar claims.

Steve said he is taking action in the public interest and not doing it for a payout. Any money he gets from the claim will be donated to the air ambulance service, which his parents were big supporters of.

Wilson Browne solicitor Gemma Pabari said the Sampson family's grieving process was "prolonged unnecessarily" and that they are concerned there could be others who have suffered through similar mistakes.

She said: “Coming to terms with the death of a loved one is difficult for anyone or any family.

"In Mr Sampson’s case his family received, months later, a letter from the hospital trust informing them that the trust was looking into an incident affecting the deceased’s care. This only compounded their distress as unfortunately the family were completely unaware of what had happened.

"When they received the trust’s letter they attempted to obtain more information, but were simply told to wait for the internal investigation report which would be made available to them. This inevitably re-opened old wounds and the family’s grieving process was prolonged unnecessarily.

"At Wilson Browne Solicitors we fully support the duty of candour and transparency but it is our view that the trust could have, and should have, dealt with this process in a more sensitive, compassionate and supportive manner for the family.

"We have concerns that there may be others in the community that have experienced something similar and would encourage them to contact us, so that we can support them and their families through this difficult time.”