NHS Borders apologises to patient over their care

NHS Borders has apologised to a patient after the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman partially upheld the patient’s complaint over their care.
The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.
The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.

The patient, known as C, had experienced back pain and rectal bleeding, and their GP had urgently referred his case to Borders General Hospital’s gastroenterology department.

The referral was triaged by the local health board and a colonoscopy (examination of the bowel with a camera on a flexible tube) was arranged, following which C was advised there was a probable tumour in their lower bowel, and that he was to be referred to a hospital within another health boar for a Transanal Endoscopic Mucosal Surgery (TEMS, a minimally invasive surgery) procedure.

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However, it was after this that delays in treatment transpired, and the referral was downgraded.

The report by SPSO said it had taken independent advice from an oncologist.

It states: “We found that it was reasonable that C was not referred to an oncologist and that investigations of a tumour reported following their colonoscopy were reasonable. However, we found that the board had unreasonably downgraded C’s referral and that the board’s failure to treat C’s condition as cancer was unreasonable.”

C had also complained about a lack of communication from the board about the delays, and about the board’s initial response to the complaint.

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The report said: “In similar cases, referrals and test results should be assessed reasonably and patients should receive treatment within 62 days of the referral and within 31 days from the decision to treat, as per Scottish Government treatment time targets. Our findings should be brought to the attention of relevant clinicians in a supportive manner and they should consider identifying these as learning point for their annual appraisals.”

It also recommended the board apologise to C, and that “a mechanism should be in place to ensure patients are informed when delays to treatment are likely.”

A spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “The SPSO findings highlighted that some aspects of care that C received were unacceptable. We accepted the recommendations identified in full and have made the changes required so that similar experiences are avoided in the future.

"We are very sorry for the upset that our failings have caused C and have offered a full apology.”