Highlands & Islands

Failings in care of Highlands woman who died from tumour

MRI scans Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The woman died before an MRI scan could be done

NHS Highland has apologised to the family of a woman following failures to diagnose that she had a brain tumour.

A health watchdog has criticised the GP practice she attended and NHS Highland's out-of-hours service and its Raigmore Hospital.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) said there were failures to recognise "red flag signs" and features associated with headaches.

There was also a failure to make an urgent referral to specialists.

After first complaining of headaches, the woman had surgery to remove a nasal ulcer in December 2013.

Over the course of the following year she continued to suffer from headaches, and also vomiting, and attended her GP practice.

Later, while in Inverness' Raigmore Hospital after being admitted to its surgical services with abdominal pain, she was seen by a neurologist who diagnosed that she had occipital nerve compression.

Following her discharge from hospital, she was again seen by GPs after suffering further headaches and other symptoms.

She was given an appointment for an MRI scan, but died at home before this could be carried out.

A post-mortem found that the cause of death was a tumour of the central nervous system within her brain.

'Sincere apologies'

As well as criticising her care, the SPSO has also criticised NHS Highland's investigation a complaint from the woman's family and missing "an opportunity to identify and address the failings in care and to reflect on and learn from what went wrong".

The watchdog has made recommendations on how care provided by NHS Highland should be improved.

In a statement, NHS Highland said: "We are truly sorry for the standards in the care and treatment provided to this patient and will be writing to the family offering our sincere apologies.

"We accept the findings of the report and it has been shared with staff and senior managers. We will also be conducting a significant adverse event review which will be chaired by a senior doctor.

"This will involve analysing the clinical care and treatment provided in order to learn and implement improvements in our practice. The family will also be kept up to date on this process."

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