The husband of a nurse who died from cervical cancer after she was wrongly told that a smear test and biopsy were normal has expressed concern at her inquest that there could be many other “victims”.
Julie O’Connor, 49, from Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, repeatedly went to see her GP over a 14-month period, complaining of gynaecological problems, and was referred three times to Southmead hospital in Bristol for further tests.
Finally, O’Connor went to see a consultant at a private hospital, where cancer was diagnosed. She underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy but died in a hospice less than 12 months after the cancer was confirmed.
O’Connor’s husband, Kevin, 50, who works for the Civil Aviation Authority, said there were “systemic failures” by North Bristol NHS Trust in the care of his wife and raised concerns about the investigations into what went wrong.
“I am concerned about the trust’s ability to learn from past mistakes. The root cause analysis does not look at the root underlying cause,” he said. “The root cause analysis does not account for further potential victims. I am extremely concerned that a proper wider independent investigation has not taken place.
“This negligence is of serious public concern and should scrutinise present and past decisions. There may be other victims who have received false negative pathology reports, and false gynaecology clinician examinations, at the North Bristol NHS Trust, who need to be reviewed.”
Gynaecologists told O’Connor in October 2015 that an endometrial biopsy was negative, and the hospital had also provided a “false positive” result to a routine smear test carried out the previous year.
Avon coroner’s court heard that by August 2016, O’Connor had returned to her GP with the same symptoms, and a coil was fitted to try to help.
The GP also sent O’Connor back to Southmead, raising the possibility of cervical cancer, and the nurse was seen within two weeks but told her cervix “looked normal”.
By November she was still unwell, and her GP made a third referral to the specialists who saw her in February 2017.
The inquest heard she was due to undergo further tests at Southmead the following month, but decided to instead see a consultant at a private hospital.
On examining her, they immediately suspected cervical cancer, which was later confirmed. Further tests showed signs her cancer had spread.
O’Connor said: “Given the number of false negative pathology reports reported by the North Bristol NHS Trust pathology department, Julie was, and I remain gravely concerned that she was not the only patient who had false negative reports, and there may be many more patients who will suffer from cancer which could have been diagnosed earlier.
“I am also concerned about the number of gynaecologists who examined Julie in her NHS care, and none of them identified a cervical cancer leading to further tests, despite Julie’s GP highlighting concerns about Julie’s cervix.”
The inquest continues.