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General Medical Council Disciplines GP Who Missed Cervical Cancer

12 August 2010

A GP whose patient died after he ignored symptoms of cervical cancer has been disciplined by the General Medical Council.

Dr Navin Shankar ignored Nicola Sams’ concerns about irregular bleeding and abdominal pain. In fact she was suffering from cervical cancer. The cancer spread to her spine, neck and arms leaving her seriously disabled, unable to walk and unable to move her hands. She died in August 2007 at the age of 26.

On 12th August 2010 the General Medical Council (GMC) found the GP guilty of serious misconduct in failing to carry out appropriate examinations. He has been allowed to continue working but must be closely supervised and spend 18 months in NHS training practices.

Dr Shankar had ignored Ms Sams’ concerns despite consultations taking place over 6 years from 1999 to 2005. The GMC found that Dr Shankar had been negligent in not recording her complaints nor keeping adequate records of visits. Ms Sams had to undergo a hysterectomy in May 2006 but her condition was not diagnosed until she was later injured in a car accident.

Paul Sankey, specialist clinical negligence solicitor and partner at Russell Jones & Walker said, ‘This is a tragic but avoidable error. Cervical cancer is a serious condition and doctors need to be wholly aware of the symptoms if patients are to be diagnosed early. Late diagnosis can lead to patients dying unnecessarily.’

Russell Jones & Walker have a specialist team pursuing claims for people who have suffered serious harm as a result of avoidable medical accidents including misdiagnoses by GPs and other doctors. They have recently recovered substantial damages after negligent GP errors, including a failure to diagnose meningitis which left a baby seriously disabled and for the family of a woman with a blood clotting disorder who died from internal bleeding after wrongly being given diclofenac.

They have also successfully pursued claims for a number of clients who were the victims of mistakes in diagnosing cancer. One woman died at the age of 57 when she developed skin cancer which spread to other parts of her body. 6 years before, she was told that a cancerous mole was benign. After her cancer was diagnosed, a review of the biopsy showed that it was in fact the early stages of melanoma. Had it been properly treated at the outset, her prognosis would have been good and she would probably have lived a normal life. The hospital has accepted that this was a mistake no reasonable doctor could have made and paid damages of £225,000 to her husband.

Another man died of bowel cancer (adenocarcinoma) despite a scan, taken a year before diagnosis, clearly showing abnormalities. Had the scan been correctly interpreted, his condition would have been diagnosed earlier. He would have lived longer and avoided a series of operations. In a further case a woman died of bowel cancer when family doctors planned on 3 occasions to refer her to a specialist but never got round to doing it.

Russell Jones & Walker has a specialist clinical negligence department with accredited experts who handle claims for damages arising from clinical negligence. With their network of offices across the country they can assist with claims nationwide.