NHS payout after Newham grandmother’s deadly cancer was wrongly diagnosed as constipation

Diana Smith with her children Claire and Jefferson. Picture: Fletchers Solicitors

Diana Smith with her children Claire and Jefferson. Picture: Fletchers Solicitors - Credit: Archant

A grandmother from Newham spent months in agony after doctors failed to diagnose her bladder cancer.

Diana Smith, 69, was diagnosed with constipation when she started visiting her GP with back pain and urine infections in the autumn of 2013.

It wasn’t until the next year when she was given surgery, and her condition was properly diagnosed.

“I’ll never forget the nurse’s face when I asked what had happened,” said Claire, Diana’s daughter.

“I asked if my mum had died and she took me into a private room. They told me that they’d had no idea just how bad the problem was going to be.

“The surgeon told us that there was a large mass which had put pressure on her bladder but at that stage no one used the word cancer.”

In December 2013, after receiving antibiotics for constipation, Diana was admitted to Newham General Hospital with a suspected urinary tract infection. Her condition deteriorated over Christmas, and in June 2014, she was moved to a care home.

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When Claire thought her mum’s pain was under control, she went on holiday, but flew home after repeated phone calls from Diana crying in pain.

Diana was admitted to hospital the same day, where she underwent eight-hour surgery.

She stayed for eight weeks, and in October 2014, went to visit her sister in Great Yarmouth. While there, she began having epileptic fits as a reaction to her painkillers.

After further tests, she was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer and given up to 12 months to live. In November, she was transferred to a care home, and she died in April 2015.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs Newham Hospital, have since agreed that a delay in Diana’s diagnosis shortened her life by up to 12 months. Diana’s family have received a five-figure payout, with the help of Fletchers Solicitors, as Diana’s symptoms weren’t found to be diagnosed in a timely manner.

Claire said: “We know that she still would have died if she’d been diagnosed sooner, but she’d have lived for longer and wouldn’t have been in severe pain for so long.

“My mum was never angry about it, she knew it was her time, but by the end she’d had enough of dealing with it all. My mum was such a placid and calm person and went through hell. I feel like I’ve lost my world.”

A Barts Health NHS Trust spokeswoman said: “We are deeply sorry for the delay in diagnosing Ms Smith’s cancer.

“This was a sad and complex case. Since 2013 we have made a number of improvements to how we care for people with suspected cancer across our hospitals, including directly contacting the referring consultant as well as a group of cross-departmental specialist clinicians to raise immediate awareness of any unexpected or significant findings in scans so that we quickly investigate and plan the most appropriate care.”