NHS Lothian has been ordered to apologise to the family of a cancer patient who died after facing “unreasonable” delays in his treatment. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) found that the health board failed to provide adequate care and communication to the patient, identified as Mr A, and his relatives.
Patient diagnosed with lung cancer
Mr A was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2023 and was referred to the regional thoracic surgery centre at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. He was assessed as suitable for surgery, which was planned for March 2023. However, due to a lack of theatre capacity, his operation was postponed several times. He was eventually operated on in May 2023, but his condition deteriorated and he died in June 2023.
Mr A’s family complained to the SPSO that NHS Lothian had failed to provide timely and appropriate treatment for his cancer, and that they had not been kept informed of the reasons for the delays. They also claimed that the health board had not followed the national guidelines for lung cancer referral and treatment.
The SPSO investigation upheld the complaint and found that NHS Lothian had breached the national standards for cancer waiting times. The investigation also found that the health board had not communicated effectively with Mr A and his family, and that they had not offered any alternative options for his care, such as transferring him to another hospital or providing palliative care.
The SPSO report stated: “We considered that the delays in Mr A’s treatment were unreasonable and had a significant impact on his prognosis and quality of life. We also considered that the board’s communication with Mr A and his family was poor and did not reflect the urgency and seriousness of his condition. We concluded that the board failed to provide Mr A with reasonable care and treatment, and failed to handle his family’s concerns appropriately.”
NHS Lothian response
NHS Lothian has apologised to Mr A’s family and accepted the SPSO’s recommendations. The health board said it had taken steps to improve its theatre capacity, cancer waiting times, and communication with patients and relatives.
A spokesperson for NHS Lothian said: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family of Mr A and apologise for the distress they have experienced. We accept the findings of the SPSO report and have implemented a number of actions to address the issues raised. We are committed to providing the highest standards of care for our patients and we will continue to monitor and review our performance in this area.”