GP practice cleared of wrongdoing in tragic child cancer case in Ayrshire and Arran


A complaint made against an Ayrshire and Arran GP practice in relation to a tragic child cancer case has been thrown out by a watchdog.

The case centered around a young patient whose parent complained about the treatment they received.

The Ayrshire and Arran GP practice has not been identified, nor has the patient, or relatives.

However, other details of the case have emerged from the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), who rejected claims the practice ‘failed to provide appropriate care and treatment.’

The parent of the tragic child, (known as A) is referred to as ‘C’ in the report, for confidentiality reasons.

In an extract from the SPSO report, they said: “C complained that the practice failed to provide appropriate care and treatment to their late child (A).

“’A’ had a lump removed from their eye lid which was subsequently diagnosed to be cancerous.

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“A went to see their doctor with severe pain in their left arm, which moved to their right arm and neck. A was prescribed painkillers and referred to physiotherapy.

“A returned from a family holiday and, still suffering from severe pain which had worsened, saw another doctor.

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“A’s painkillers were changed and they were referred to physiotherapy.

“After a further consultation, A was referred for an x-ray which identified that A’s C6 vertebrae (found in the inferior end of the neck, just above the thorax) had collapsed and that there was a cancerous tumor. A died a few months later.”

Following the child’s death, their parent complained that doctors at the practice ‘failed to respond to A’s symptoms in a reasonable manner,’ given A’s ‘history of cancer.’

The report goes on: “C complained that it took A to attend the practice on a number of occasions before appropriate treatment/investigations were undertaken.

“C believed that, had doctors taken account of A’s previous history, A would have received appropriate treatment sooner. C (the parent) considered that the practice failed to investigate and respond to their complaint appropriately.”

However, the SPSO said they took independent advice from a medical adviser and found that the practice’s consultations with C were “reasonable,” and there was “no unreasonable delay” in the decision to refer their child for an x-ray.

As a result they did not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

The SPSO also looked at the way the initial complaint was handled.

They said: “With respect to the complaints handling, we found that there was a misapprehension on the practice’s part about the handling of the complaint which resulted in a failure to communicate with C in accordance with their complaints handling procedure.

“However, the practice had investigated the complaint and provided an accurate and detailed response within a reasonable timeframe and, on balance, we did not uphold this aspect of the complaint.

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“We provided feedback to the practice on their obligations with respect to complaints handling.”

In a statement from Craig McArthur, East Ayrshire Health & Social Care Partnership and Director and Lead for Primary Care Services, he said: “I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family of Child A.

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“We acknowledge the findings of the SPSO report which shows that the practice’s consultations were reasonable, and that there were no unreasonable delays in the decision to refer A for an x-ray.

“With regards to the complaints handling process, while it was noted that the complaint was handled appropriately, we appreciate that the practice may not have communicated with the patient’s family as required.

“As a learning organization, we will share the findings from the report with the appropriate primary care teams.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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