Mother, 74, dies after doctors misdiagnosed her cancer as acid reflux

Killed by cancer because she couldn’t get a face-to-face appointment due to Covid: Widower says his 74-year-old wife’s symptoms were misdiagnosed as acid reflux over the phone despite her ‘begging’ to be seen in person

  • Trish Gower, from Worthing, developed a worsening cough in February 2021
  • Began to get shortness of breath but tests confirmed it wasn’t related to Covid 
  • Husband said she was refused a face-to-face appointment due to restrictions
  • Instead Raymond claimed she was told over the phone she had acid  reflux 
  • When she developed lumps in throat months later, she was offered appointment
  • Doctors realised she had an aggressive and rapidly spreading inoperable cancer
  • Trish died in July 2021, with Raymond saying he is ‘heartbroken’  

A mother died of cancer after it was misdiagnosed as acid reflux on the phone when ‘she couldn’t get a face-to-face appointment due to Covid’, her husband has claimed 

Raymond Gower, 74, from Worthing, said his wife Trish developed a cough and shortness of breath in February 2021, but struggled to get her a face-to-face appointment due to Covid-19, and was told over the phone she had acid reflux. 

The 74-year-old  was suspicious it may be something more serious when she became unable to walk down down the hallway or complete a sentence without gasping for breath.

Despite the couple ‘begging’ for an in-person appointment, it was only two months later when Trish discovered lumps on her throat that doctors finally agreed to see her face-to-face.

Medics then realised she actually had an aggressive and rapidly spreading cancer in her lungs, ovaries and lymphatic system – but by that stage, the cancer was inoperable and she died in July 2021.

Raymond explained: ‘I know she lost her life sooner than she was supposed to and it is heart-breaking.’

Trish Gower, from Worthing, died of cancer after it was misdiagnosed as acid reflux on the phone when ‘she couldn’t get a face-to-face appointment due to Covid’, her husband Raymond has claimed

The couple, who had been together since they were teenagers, were concerned when Trish developed a cough in February 2021 

Raymond and Trish met aged 15 before getting married six years later. 

He said his wife was ‘healthy’ up until developing a cough in February 2021.

Several tests confirmed it wasn’t Covid-19, but as the cough worsened and she began to get short of breath, Raymond said they tried to book her in for a GP appointment.

But he said they were told she couldn’t see someone face to face due to Covid restrictions.

Trish and Raymond, who had a family and travelled the world together, were worried when they were unable to get an in-person doctors appointment for Trish last year 

WHAT IS LUNG CANCER?

Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. 

Around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.

There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but many people with the condition eventually develop symptoms including:

– a persistent cough

– coughing up blood

– persistent breathlessness

– unexplained tiredness and weight loss

– an ache or pain when breathing or coughing

You should see a GP if you have these symptoms.

Types of lung cancer 

There are two main forms of primary lung cancer. 

These are classified by the type of cells in which the cancer starts growing. 

They are:

– Non-small-cell lung cancer. The most common form, accounting for more than 87 per cent of cases. 

– It can be one of three types: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma or large-cell carcinoma.

– Small-cell lung cancer – a less common form that usually spreads faster than non-small-cell lung cancer.

– The type of lung cancer you have determines which treatments are recommended.

Who’s affected

Lung cancer mainly affects older people. It’s rare in people younger than 40. 

More than four out of 10 people diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK are aged 75 and older.

Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking is the most common cause (accounting for about 72 per cent of cases). 

This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances.

Treating lung cancer

Treatment depends on the type of mutation the cancer has, how far it’s spread and how good your general health is.

If the condition is diagnosed early and the cancerous cells are confined to a small area, surgery to remove the affected area of lung may be recommended.

If surgery is unsuitable due to your general health, radiotherapy to destroy the cancerous cells may be recommended instead.

If the cancer has spread too far for surgery or radiotherapy to be effective, chemotherapy is usually used.

There are also a number of medicines known as targeted therapies. 

They target a specific change in or around the cancer cells that is helping them to grow. 

Targeted therapies cannot cure lung cancer but they can slow its spread.

Source: NHS 

Following her phone appointment, Raymond said she was diagnosed with gastric reflux and prescribed two three-week courses of heartburn medication.

Raymond said: ‘After the first round, I called up the doctor and begged for an in-person appointment.

‘I remember saying, ‘It’s not good enough, can’t you examine her?’ but it didn’t make a difference.’ 

Raymond said it wasn’t until Trish developed lumps in her throat that doctors would see her face-to-face – two months after first calling the doctor.

Raymond explained how he ‘couldn’t remember a time without’  his wife and ‘didn’t know what to do with himself’ after her death 

However by that stage, it had given the aggressive cancer time to spread. 

She was sent for an emergency scan and diagnosed with incurable lung cancer in her right lung.

It transpired the cancer had originated in her ovaries, undetected, before spreading to her lungs and was also present in her lymphatic system.

She had chemotherapy to extend her life but after three rounds Raymond said doctors confirmed it wasn’t working, and it was too late.

Trish had chemotherapy to extend her life but after three rounds Raymond said doctors confirmed it wasn’t working, and it was too late (pictured together) 

The cancer was inoperable and she died from the lung cancer on July 26 2021.

Retired Raymond believes a face-to-face appointment could have saved her life.

He said: ‘When my wife arrived at the hospital she was treated so well, but it took far too long to get her there so she could get the treatment she needed.

‘When we begged for a face-to-face appointment, we were denied access to the surgery.’

Retired Raymond now believes a face-to-face appointment could have led to an earlier diagnosis and saved his wife’s life 

He continued:  ‘We were never explicitly told they wouldn’t see her face to face because of a Covid regime but we could tell they were being careful – even when I begged.

‘I have been with my wife since we were 15 and I can’t remember a time without her – I just don’t know what to do with myself.

‘We travelled the world and raised a family together. 

‘I don’t know how long I have left to live, but however long it is, I have to do it alone and that breaks my heart.

‘Now I have to live without her knowing it could have been different.’

The 74-year-old confessed it ‘breaks his heart’ to live without his wife ‘knowing things could have been different’ (pictured together) 

Let’s get back to seeing GPs face to face: Growing toll of cancers and devastating illnesses missed by ‘remote’ doctors fuels concerns over healthcare appointments 

A string of deaths has heightened fears that cancers and other illnesses are being missed because of the rise of phone and video consultations.

Before the pandemic around 80 per cent of GP appointments were in person. But the figure was just 57 per cent in July 2021 despite life returning to normal. 

In some regions, just 45 per cent of consultations are face to face – even though most adults are now double jabbed. A senior coroner warned in September that not seeing a doctor in person may have contributed to the deaths of five people across Manchester. 

At the time, The Daily Mail’s campaign for more face-to-face consultations was backed by politicians, charities and families.

Lisa King, who lost her husband Peter after a GP denied him an in-person appointment, said: ‘I hope this Daily Mail campaign can make a difference because I never want another wife, husband, son or daughter to have to go through what me and my two sons are going through.’

Arun Ghosh, 42, a GP partner in Liverpool, says virtual consultations are no replacement for a ‘hand on the tummy or listening to someone’s breathing’. 

The low level of face-to-face appointments comes despite official NHS guidance telling surgeries to offer in-person consultations if patients wanted them, unless there were good clinical reasons, such as Covid symptoms.

Many family doctors argue that phone or video appointments via Skype or Zoom allow them to handle more patients in a typical day.

Doctors’ leaders also argue a long-standing GP recruitment crisis has made it harder to see everyone in person.

But others believe the pendulum has swung too far and that it is vital to get back to pre-pandemic levels of face-to-face appointments so that fewer serious conditions are missed.

nd campaigners say it is often the vulnerable or elderly who lose out by not being able to see their family GP as they normally would.

The Mail is demanding action from ministers and the medical authorities to ensure the proportion of appointments carried out face to face is radically improved.

This newspaper is also calling for action to ensure there is no postcode lottery in the system and for the Government to deliver on its pledge to recruit 6,000 more GPs.

Dennis Reed of Silver Voices, a campaign group for the over-60s, is pressing for patients to have a legal right to ‘face-to-face GP appointments’.

His petition on an official government website has more than 16,000 signatures, and a survey of more than 500 elderly people by his group in May found 71 per cent had struggled to obtain an in-person appointment with a GP.

Mr Reed said: ‘Primary care is not a welcoming service any more. If you can get through to your GP surgery on the phone, you’ll be interrogated by a receptionist and have to jump through so many hoops to get an appointment.’

Caroline Abrahams, of the charity Age UK, called for increased resources for GP practices to enable them to carry out more in-person consultations.

And Gavin Terry, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Virtual GP appointments cannot become the norm for everyone with dementia, as many people experience communication issues, and their true condition might not be picked up.’

Alison Cook, who works for Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said that most asthma sufferers have told them they prefer face-to-face care.

An NHS spokesman said last night: ‘Every GP practice must provide face-to-face as well as telephone and online appointments.

 

 

 

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