Report into death of Darwen man 'a whitewash' says charity boss
10:30am Monday 26th August 2013 in News
AN ombudsman’s report into the death of a 27-year-old man has been labelled a ‘whitewash’ by a campaigning charity boss.
Paul Nixon, of Darwen, died in November 2011, three months after being diagnosed with a rare sarcoma cancer in his thigh, and a complaint into a number of issues was lodged by his family.
The complaint was referred to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, who found some failings but decided not to take the case further.
His stunned mum Lynn Nixon, who watched her son pass away at the family home in Huntingdon Drive, said the ombudsman’s report had not gone nearly far enough.
Mrs Nixon, who launched her complaint last year, said all the family wanted was an apology from the hospital.
And in a letter to ombudsman Dame Julie Mellor MBE, the honorary president of Sarcoma UK, Roger Wilson CBE, described her judgement as ‘significantly flawed’ and said it ran ‘counter to national guidelines’.
He criticised a decision to refer Paul to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, rather than his local oncology centre The Christie in Manchester which he said led to a delay in treatment.
Mr Wilson’s letter, and his report of the case, was also sent to medical director for NHS England Prof Sir Bruce Keogh, clinical director for cancer for NHS England Sean Duffy, chief inspector of hospitals Prof Sir Mike Ricards and several other high profile medical executives.
Mr Wilson told the Lancashire Telegraph he believed there were a number of problems with Dame Julie’s investigation of the case.
He said: “It does appear there is a whitewash, and whether that is accidental or not I do not know.
“If we take the way Paul’s first visit to hospital (when he was mis-diagnosed) was looked at, it was split into three separate complaints.
“Put together, it was one major problem but splitting it into three has put a whitewash on it.”
Mr Wilson said he wanted to obtain the apology Mrs Nixon has waited so long for.
He said: “Paul was improperly treated by Royal Blackburn Hospital.
“There have been some apologies but they will not admit that the doctors got anything wrong.”
Once he was diagnosed as having a sarcoma, Paul was referred to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham for further treatment.
Mr Wilson said this was against NHS and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines as he should have been immediately referred to his local oncology department, The Christie in Manchester.
He said: “The way the report looked at the referral broke NHS guidelines and when Lynn challenged it, the hospital reinforced that that was the right thing to do.
“The ombudsman also wrongly backed up the decision to refer him to Birmingham.”
In his letter, Mr Wilson said: “The pathway for soft tissue sarcoma for hospitals and GPs in the Cumbria and East Lancashire Network which was in place at the time was to the Christie Hospital.
“The only service ROH Birmingham could deliver for Paul Nixon was to confirm diagnosis.
“It was known that he had metastatic disease at diagnosis in Blackburn and that an oncologist should be involved in his treatment. There is no oncologist available at ROH for out of network patients.
“Paul eventually reached an oncologist at the Christie. His disease was too advanced for anything other than palliative care.”
Mr Wilson founded Sarcoma UK in 2003, four years after being diagnosed with the disease himself.
He was awarded a CBE in 2011 for his work in helping cancer patients.
He has also advised national cancer director Mike Richards on the Government’s cancer reform strategy and sits on the board of the Cancer Research Institute.
Mrs Nixon said: “Mr Wilson’s report clearly shows just how wrong the Royal Blackburn Hospital consultants got it when my son was there.
“All I want is an apology for the delay in diagnosis and the unnecessary suffering Paul had to go through.”
A spokeswoman for the Health Service Ombudsman said: “We will be responding to Mr Wilson’s letter.
“The Ombudsman Service investigates complaints in private due to the sensitive nature of the issues we consider and because the legislation governing us requires this.
“Unfortunately, we therefore cannot comment on any specific cases.”
Royal Blackburn Hospital also declined to comment and said they had not seen a copy of the letter or Mr Wilson’s report into the case.
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