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Virtual GP appointments lead to missed liver cancer diagnosis

Posted on 15th September 2021 in Medical Negligence

Posted by

Stuart Bramley

Partner and Solicitor
Virtual GP appointments lead to missed liver cancer diagnosis

In December 2020 a 27 year old, Jessica Brady from Stevenage in Hertfordshire, passed away from liver cancer following a number of virtual appointments over a five month period.

Due to these appointments being online due to Covid, the liver tumour was missed. Jessica’s mum told MPs that her daughter might still be alive if she was seen by her GP face-to-face and that she repeatedly asked to see someone in person but was denied this each time despite complaining of abdominal pain. She was wrongly diagnosed with a kidney infection and given antibiotics.

Further tests identified concerns regarding her liver function, but medics decided to wait to see what will happen. Doctors didn’t put all the evidence together to identify cancer until five months later, by which point this had spread around Jessica’s body and become untreatable.

It was revealed that Jessica was seen in person by a GP once, only after she bombarded her local surgery with more than twenty phone calls. Despite seeing a GP it was still not until she sought private health care that she was diagnosed with stage four cancer of the lungs, bones, spine and liver. On the day of her diagnosis she went into hospital, but three and a half weeks later she passed away.

Tozers' co-Head of Clinical Negligence Stuart Bramley writes:

"All clinicians including GPs have faced an exceptionally difficult time during the Covid crisis and the restrictions created by the pandemic has evidently made diagnosis of serious conditions a real challenge.  Solicitors acting for patients who have been harmed, for instance by a critical illness being overlooked, are all alert to the risks of finding fault by a doctor when he or she was put in an impossible position by Covid. 

Jessica Brady's story does seem very different however.  Although Dr Roope, the cancer specialist quoted in this Mail article, correctly refers to the need for more GPs, Jessica was seen by four different General Practitioners and it was only when she attended a private doctor that her cancer was identified.  The article also makes the point that in December 2020 Covid was largely under control and at that point most doctors did see patients in person.  It should also be noted that even without seeing Jessica those caring for her were aware of her D-dimer results, which should have flagged up cancer as one possible cause.

Even during the pandemic, avoidable medical errors occur which cannot reasonably be blamed on Covid.  Jessica Brady's story is a tragic one and I sincerely hope that appropriate lessons are learned". 

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