Nye Bevan relative was 'let down by NHS' before dying of lung cancer

Gabriella Swerling
A relative of Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS, died after doctors failed to tell him he had lung cancer for 15 months, an inquest heard. - PA

A relative of Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS, died after doctors failed to tell him he had lung cancer for 15 months, an inquest heard.

Roderick Bevan, who died aged 66 in May 2018 after NHS doctors diagnosed his condition, would have survived but for the failure of two sets of doctors..

A coroner ruled that the errors amounted to “neglect”.

Mr Bevan, of Grantham, Lincolnshire, was a great-nephew of Nye Bevan, the health minister in the postwar government who is widely renowned for his role in driving through the creation of the health service in 1948.

The retired caretaker’s daughter, Paula, told The Guardian: “I feel that my dad was totally let down by the NHS, whose founder was Nye Bevan who, as the name suggests, my dad was related to – it was his great uncle. I am sure that he would be appalled by the events that have unfolded.”

NHS doctors had diagnosed Mr Bevan’s lung cancer following a scan however they failed to ensure that he then underwent stereotactic ablative radiotherapy – treatment that if he had had it at the time was expected to cure him. 

A string of blunders meant that he was never offered the radiotherapy.

At the end of the two-day inquest into the events surrounding his death that opened at Boston coroner’s court on 30 April and ended on 1 May, the coroner, Paul Smith, ruled that his death was the result of “natural causes contributed to by neglect”.

In his verdict, the coroner said: “On the balance of probabilities, had the results of the PET scan and/or the recommendation of the multi-disciplinary team meeting of 11 October 2016 been acted upon promptly, the treatment proposed for Mr Bevan would have been successful.”

Peter Walsh, the chief executive of Action against Medical Accidents, a charity that campaigns against medical negligence, added: “This is a shocking case of multiple failures by the NHS which appear to have taken away Mr Bevan’s chances of a cure.

“It is highly ironic that this should happen to a relative of Nye Bevan’s. However, this is not a novelty. Rather it is yet another example of how the modern-day NHS is failing far too many patients.

“Nye Bevan would turn in his grave if he knew the number of avoidable deaths and other serious harm being caused by failure in patient safety.”

Dr Neill Hepburn, the medical director at the Lincolnshire trust, said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family of Mr Bevan.

“We accept that there were opportunities for us to communicate more effectively with Mr Bevan and have carried out a full investigation into the circumstances of his death. We have learned from this and have reviewed our practices and procedures.”

Dr Andrew Furlong, his counterpart at the Leicester trust, said: “Unfortunately Mr Bevan died in tragic circumstances; for that we remain incredibly sorry.”

Since looking into his death, the trust has changed its systems to prevent anything similar happening again. 

As a result, any patient with suspected cancer is included on a daily list seen by key doctors and managers across the trust, who then ensure investigations, treatment plans and the right care are arranged and tracked to see they occur, Furlong explained.