HEALTH bosses have offered an ‘unreserved apology’ to dad-of-three Paul Clegg, who was left fearing he had testicular cancer after being mistaken for another patient.
Mr Clegg, from Blackburn, had gone to Barbara Castle Way Health Centre for routine tests on his shoulder, but when he arrived he was told to prepare for a scan on his testicles.
The 50-year-old quizzed staff, but said they insisted their records were correct and he should change into a patient gown.
Paul, whose wife Jackie died of breast cancer in 2003, said he then spent 30 minutes ‘engulfed in impending doom’ before the error was acknowledged.
He said: “Even after I questioned it, the staff were adamant that I was there for my testicles. They checked through all my information, including my address and GP details, and sat me down and said clearly that I was there for that reason.
“They really tried to convince me, and when they left me in this side room I was genuinely thinking I could have cancer and there was something seriously wrong.
“It was the worst 30 minutes of my life. I lost my wife to cancer when she was only 40 and I was actually thinking of getting up and running out I was so scared. It was like impending doom and the nurses could see how distressed I was.”
Paul, of Newton Street, Audley, has been recovering from a routine operation on his shoulder last year, and had been due to have an ultrasound scan to check his progress. He attended the health centre on March 26 after being sent an appointment letter, which is when the mix-up happened.
He made a formal complaint and has now received a written response from East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the radiology service at Barbara Castle Way.
It said GP surgeries now use an electronic system to order radiology tests, and where the patient details held on the GP database do not match those on the hospital computer system, the request is stored on a separate list for ‘manual intervention’ from office staff.
The letter added: “On this occasion, there was a request on the list for ultrasound tests for a patient with very similar details to you. On selecting a patient from the list, the clerical officer made an error and selected your name...
“I would like to assure you that the correct patient has since been contacted and had their appointment....Unfortunately, as demonstrated here, manual intervention can lead to human error on a rare occasion.”
But after meeting with senior medics to discuss his complaint, Paul, who works for Darwen-based officer furniture manufactuer Mercol, said: “They didn’t seem to think it was serious. They acted pretty blasé about it saying it was just a simple mistake, but I’m sorry I don’t accept there should be an element of human error when it comes to healthcare, just like there shouldn’t be when it comes to aircraft engineering.
“What would have happened if it was an older, more vulnerable patient, who might not have questioned them? At what point would it all have stopped? And it just makes you wonder how many times this sort of thing is happening, as it could have serious consequences if someone is given the wrong medication or operation.
“They must have safeguards and procedures in place. If it’s not caught the first time it needs to be caught the second.
“I’m not happy with their explanation and I think people need to be aware that things like this are happening, because otherwise they might not get spotted.”
Christine Pearson, chief nurse at ELHT, said Paul had been offered an ‘unreserved apology’, adding: “While we cannot comment on the case in detail, we explained the error was human and that the staff member involved has been spoken to emphasising the critical importance of ensuring that the right patient is associated with the correct records.
“We informed Mr Clegg that there are new procedures and systems in place to ensure that this does not happen again and we have contacted the patient with whom his records were confused to ensure that they received the correct care.
“We take every complaint seriously and the trust and team concerned has learned a valuable lesson in this case and we are grateful to Mr Clegg for his feedback.”
ELHT has been in special measures since last summer, when NHS inspectors made wide-ranging criticisms of the way it was run over several years.