‘We’re sorry, but we have changed’ hospital promises after mum with cancer was misdiagnosed with IBS


Hospital bosses have apologised to a woman who was misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome when she was suffering from bowel cancer.

West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust has also changed the way it carries out some diagnostic tests to reduce the likelihood of the mistake ever happening again.

Linda Smith, who hopes speaking out about her ordeal may help others who are suffering, was so poorly that she would cry out in pain, felt weak, suffered weight loss, bloating which made her look pregnant, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and constipation.

She said: “I looked pregnant at the time and I even got a pregnancy test.

“I couldn’t eat and looked anorexic, except for my hugely bloated stomach. I asked for tests and a scan, but none were given.”

The 43-year-old was prescribed medicine to deal with irritable bowel syndrome after being diagnosed at Hemel Hempstead Hospital in early 2008, but her condition just got worse.

By the end of the year she was so unwell that her family had to take over housework chores and by June 2009 Linda’s husband Kevin was so concerned that he would check on her during his working day.

Home visits were set up by the hospital but mum-of three Linda, who had plunged into depression, was simply given anti-sickness jabs to help her keep food down.

She was eventually admitted to hospital after Kevin insisted that something needed to be done and in October 2009 a scan revealed a tumour in Linda’s bowel. Her life was saved by emergency surgery.

Linda said: “If it wasn’t for Kevin I would have just given up. It’s thanks to him that I am here today .

“I felt euphoric after the operation because the pain had gone, so even when faced with six months of chemotherapy I felt incredibly positive.”

With the help of Hemel Hempstead-based Pictons Solicitors Linda took legal action against the hospital trust, which has now paid her compensation but has not accepted liability.

A trust spokesman said: “Mrs Smith was referred to our hospitals in early 2008 and, as would be expected, we undertook a significant number of tests to diagnose her condition. All test results came back as being normal.

“A without prejudice offer was made and accepted by Mrs Smith at the end of July 2013, however liability has not been admitted.

“Our lawyers were of the opinion that the Trust was not wholly negligent in that we did not give substandard care. However, they did agree that further tests and examinations could have been carried out.

“We have apologised to Mrs Smith and hope that this settlement will offer her a level of closure after what will have been a very difficult time for her and her family.

“Since 2008, the trust has reviewed and changed the way some diagnostic tests are carried out, which has reduced the likelihood of a similar incident occurring.”