Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust admits failing to prevent cervical cancer | Fieldfisher
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Case Study

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust admits failing to prevent cervical cancer

Emma Kendall secured damages of £83,000 for a client whose cervical cancer should have been prevented after Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust apologised for incorrectly reporting a smear test as normal. Emma was assisted throughout the case by Marlena Mistak.

Sarah instructed Emma to investigate a claim on her behalf after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer following a routine smear test at her GP surgery. The diagnosis prompted Sarah to request the defendant Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to audit her cervical screening results over the previous 10 years  and it concluded that two screening samples had been misreported as normal.

The Trust was put on notice of a clinical negligence claim and invited to make an early admission of liability. The Trust however denied it had breached its duty of care to Sarah, arguing the audits were conducted with the benefit of hindsight and that knowing a patient had cancer could lead to bias. The Trust also contended that the characteristics identified on Sarah's samples placed them into one of the unfortunate false negative cases that are a foreseeable function of any screening programme.

Emma was therefore required to instruct an independent expert cytopathologist to review Sarah's original samples and provide an opinion on breach of duty. The expert concluded that the smear undertaken around three years prior to Sarah's diagnosis had shown high-grade dyskaryosis (abnormal cells). The findings should have prompted a referral for colposcopy which would have shown evidence of pre-cancerous changes (CIN2 or CIN3) confirmed by biopsy.

The expert gynaecological oncologist instructed on causation advised that Sarah would have undergone outpatient treatment with a LLETZ procedure that would have removed the pre-cancerous cells. Sarah would have undergone regular screening thereafter. She would not have developed cervical cancer or required further treatment.

Because of the three-year delay in diagnosis, Sarah developed stage 1A cervical cancer. She underwent a hysterectomy causing symptoms of early menopause. She also suffered psychiatric injury.

A pre-action letter of claim was sent to the defendant. Emma and Sarah agreed to disclose the expert cytopathology evidence on a 'without prejudice' basis and this prompted the Trust to admit liability.

The Trust apologised to Sarah for its failings in her care and agreed to pay damages for financial losses and Sarah's pain and suffering.

Sarah said:

"You have been a pleasure to deal with. You are always so kind and empathic, ensuring I feel able to express myself, whilst feeling heard and understood. I cannot describe the value in this for me, topped by your detailed approach. Thank you."

Contact us

For further information about delayed diagnosis claims or hospital negligence claims, please call Emma Kendall on 0330 460 6755 or email or call Marlena Mistak on 0330 460 6795 or email


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