Sister Of Woman Died After Cervical Cancer Delay Raises Awareness


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NHS Trust Report Highlighted Issues In Care

The family of a woman from Thirsk who died after her cervical cancer went undiagnosed for almost two years has spoken out to raise awareness of the disease.

Nicky Jetson-Shepherd died aged 52, 16 months after being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Before her diagnosis she had attended a number of medical appointments including at Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital complaining of abdominal pain and bleeding.

However, she was repeatedly told that her symptoms were either related to early menopause, hormone replacement therapy or fibroids – non-cancerous growths in the womb.

Following her diagnosis, Nicky instructed medical negligence experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate whether the cancer should have been diagnosed sooner.  After she died, the legal team continued the investigation alongside her sisters Sandra Bates and Shirley Jetson and mother Jean Jetson.

The South Tees NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Friarage Hospital, admitted liability and accepted that with earlier diagnosis and treatment Nicky would have survived.  It also conducted an internal investigation which highlighted numerous issues in the care provided to Nicky.  The Trust has amended its policies in a bid to prevent further cases like Nicky’s happening in the future.

As part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, Sandra is now joining with her legal team at Irwin Mitchell in raising awareness of the disease that claimed her sister’s life.  It comes after lawyers secured a settlement in the case.

Expert Opinion

“Nicky’s death has had a profound effect on Sandra and the rest of the family, who are still trying to come to terms with losing Nicky so tragically.

Through our work we come across many families torn apart by cancer, and early diagnosis and treatment is key to fighting this terrible disease. While nothing can make up for the hurt and pain Nicky’s family have been through, we welcome the Trust’s pledge to improve patient care by making changes to its policies.

It’s now vital that these changes are upheld at all times so others don’t have to go through what Nicky’s family have.”
Ross McWilliams – Senior Associate Solicitor

In May 2013, Nicky began suffering from lower abdominal pain and bleeding.  She underwent a smear test which was reported as clear.

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Between June 2014 and her cancer diagnosis on 30 March 2016, Nicky sought medical advice from a GP and Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.  She was repeatedly told that her symptoms were either related to early menopause, Hormone Replacement Therapy or fibroids.

An examination of Nicky’s endometrium – the inner lining of the womb – showed no abnormality, but no recommendation was made for a referral to colposcopy or further investigation.  A Root Cause Analysis Investigation Report carried out by the Hospital Trust found there had been a lack of recognition of the importance of Nicky’s physical symptoms. 

As a result, the report made recommendations which included the development of local practice guidelines to investigate and manage patients like Nicky by extending to a plan or pathway of care for normal findings.

Sandra said: “Our whole family was devastated when Nicky died.  After she was diagnosed, her health deteriorated so quickly and it was incredibly difficult to know there was nothing we could do.

“Nicky did everything right and went to the doctor, but sadly it wasn’t enough and she was let down by those who could have saved her.  It’s difficult not to think that if the cancer had been diagnosed earlier, she might still be here.

“While nothing will change what has happened, we’re relieved the case has now come to an end.  All we can hope for now is that the Trust learns from what Nicky went through, as we wouldn’t want any other family to suffer the pain we have.

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“We’d rather not be in this position but if by speaking out we can help others become more aware of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer and the importance of early diagnosis than at least some good may come out of this awful situation.”

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 18 to 24 January.  For more information visit www.jostrust.org.uk.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise in handling medical negligence cases


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