Terminally ill woman sues over cancer diagnosis delay

Katie Maytum Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Miss Maytum is suing the NHS for £750,000 at Cardiff High Court

A terminally ill woman who claims a hospital did not treat her suspected cancer as urgent has launched legal action against a health board.

Katie Maytum, 35, from Maesteg, was given an urgent referral by her GP for an appointment at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend.

But she waited five months rather than two weeks before she was seen.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board admitted a breach of duty at Cardiff High Court on Monday.

Miss Maytum is suing the NHS for £750,000, claiming surgeons ignored cancer guidelines.

The mother of two was 31 when she visited her GP in July 2010 with a lump in her breast.

He suspected it was breast cancer and made an urgent referral for her to see a consultant at the hospital.

Official guidelines from NICE - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - specify that she should have been seen within two weeks.

The guidelines state that any woman aged 30 or over with a discrete lump which has persisted for six weeks should receive an urgent referral.


But the consultant who received the referral, Vummiti Muralikrishnan, downgraded it to a routine case because she was younger than 35.

He told the court that he used local guidelines which state that women younger than 35 without "alarming symptoms" would not be treated as urgent.

He admitted that this policy was not written down in the hospital, but was on the South West Wales Cancer Network website.

Representing Miss Maytum, Nigel Poole QC told surgeon Mr Muralikrishnan that if she was living in England she could expect to be seen in two weeks.

The surgeon told the hearing he "definitely" would have changed the referral back to urgent if the GP had contacted him with concerns.

But the hearing was told that Miss Maytum's GP was not made aware of the downgraded referral.

That meant that Miss Maytum did not see a consultant until January 2011 - five months later.

Getting married

She was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and chemotherapy.

She was told in April 2014 that the cancer had spread and that she only had two years to live.

The health board admitted that the wait was a breach of duty and she should have been seen in August 2010 and undergone surgery in September 2010.

Ms Maytum, who is getting married later this month, says that if it was not for the delay, she would have been cured.

She was a nursing assistant and was studying to be a mental health nurse.

But she told the court today that she had to give up her job and studying because of her ill health.

The case continues.

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