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Cervical cancer screening blunders leave woman with death sentence
A woman has been left with terminal cervical cancer after appalling screening errors at a Cheshire hospital meant the disease went undetected for three years.
Vivien Reynolds, of Widnes, is just 45 but is facing a death sentence after obvious abnormalities that signalled she was at severe risk of developing the deadly disease were missed on a cervical smear test carried out in 2008.
After Vivien sought help from the specialist solicitors at law firm JMW, Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which was responsible for the fatal screening error, made a full admission of negligence. The trust has since apologised for the failure.
Vivien and her solicitor at JMW are now calling for the system of reviewing cervical smear test slides to be made safer to help to ensure other patients with clear signs of the disease do not suffer similar errors. Vivien, an administrator at a haulage company, has been told she could have just two years to live.
Vivien’s solicitor at JMW, said she had been failed by failure to pick up on clear signs.
She commented: “This wasn't a little slip-up. No reasonable screener would have missed the cancer signs that were present; any competent screener should have picked it up. It was sub-standard care.
“Once someone is diagnosed with cervical cancer the NHS does a review of their case to see if anything could have been picked up earlier. Three separate screeners then looked at Vivien’s test and all three of them spotted the pre-cancerous cells.
“We have had our own independent expert review on Vivien's case which revealed that if she had been diagnosed in 2008 she wouldn’t have needed chemotherapy, could have been treated with a routine procedure and would have made a complete recovery.”
Vivien commented: “I am keenly aware of the importance of cervical screening and have taken great care to have this done every three years so I am absolutely distraught that despite my best efforts I have been failed.
“Mistakes can happen and not every single incidence of cervical cancer will be picked up by screening but when the signs are so clear it is very worrying when they are missed. My fear now is that the same thing will happen to other women as I do not believe the system for picking up errors is robust enough.
“I have been sentenced to death and the only thing I can do now is speak out about what happened to me to try to get the NHS to look again at what safeguards are in place and make them tighter.”
JMW said that the system for checking smear test slides deemed to be normal left women like Vivien, whose cancer signs were missed first time around, vulnerable to errors.
She commented: “A smear test slide is checked twice. The first check takes about eight minutes and any abnormalities should be picked up then. Any that are reported as clear are sent for a rapid review – a safeguard that is supposed to ensure any signs of cancer that were missed first time around are detected.
“However the second check only takes about a minute and the room for error is much greater. As a safeguard to pick up on signs that were missed first time it’s inadequate.”
Vivien had the smear test in July 2008 at her local GP surgery and the slide was sent to Warrington Hospital for review. She received a letter shortly after informing her that everything had been found to be normal.
However in June 2011, after attending her GP due to some abnormal bleeding, investigations revealed that Vivien had cervical cancer. She was told in July 2011 that the cancer was stage 2 and had spread.
Between August and October 2011 Vivien underwent several gruelling rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which initially put the cancer into remission. However in 2013 the cancer came back and in October 2013 she was given the devastating news that her condition was incurable.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Kelly Hindle on the details below:
D. 0161 828 1868
Note to Editors
JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.JMW’s Clinical Negligence team is headed up by leading lawyer, Eddie Jones.