A hospital trust has admitted putting a mum through four rounds of chemotherapy which she didn’t need – with the error only discovered after she researched the recommended treatment and information herself.
Jodi Huggett, 41, took legal action against Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital’s NHS Trust after discovering her chemotherapy treatment following an operation to remove a low-grade form of bowel cancer had been completely unnecessary.
However, by this point she had already been through four rounds of treatment, causing her to twice go into anaphylactic shock.
Feeling desperately ill and facing her fifth session of treatment, Mrs Huggett went online and researched neuroendocrine tumours, only to discover she had been put through extra suffering needlessly.
“I was on my knees following my operation and with my chemotherapy treatment. I was just about to go into my fifth cycle and I felt so poorly that I decided to look online into it myself,” she said.
“To my amazement, I found a blog which mentioned people of my age with the same tumour and the fact that the Royal Free Hospital in London was a specialist centre. From what I read, I questioned the treatment and the information I had been given, so I contacted the hospital and they agreed to review my case.
“They told me chemotherapy never has and never will be proven to work on a tumour like the one I had and the only way it would have been required was for a palliative care patient, which I wasn’t. I couldn’t believe it when I found out it had all been completely unnecessary. It was heartbreaking.”
The Royal Free Hospital contacted Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, East Yorkshire, to advise them they were treating their patient incorrectly.
Mrs Huggett says it is “disgusting” that she was able to contact another NHS hospital for advice and be told about the incorrect treatment and accepted guidelines after simple online research.
She experienced various side effects from the treatment, including coldness of the lips, fingers and toes, spasm of her airway, low energy and tingling.
“I suffered from these side effects of the chemotherapy and I didn’t even need it. It shouldn’t have happened,” she said.
“I had such a bad experience twice during chemotherapy because I went into anaphylactic shock when my treatment was delivered late and my temperature kept dropping.
“It’s ridiculous. Think about the cost to the NHS with the nursing care, the amount of chemotherapy, anti-sickness drugs, steroids and anti-depressants I was on.”
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust has now agreed to pay a compensation settlement to Mrs Huggett after she was represented by medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors.
The Trust admitted that the oncologist at Castle Hill Hospital failed to consider accepted UK and European guidelines with regards to the most suitable course of treatment, and that the decision to offer chemotherapy breached the hospital’s duty of care.
However, Mrs Huggett, who is mum to Olivia, 19, and Harriet, 16, says that admission only came after she went down the route of taking legal action, having demanded full investigations into her care.
She said: “When I went to see my consultant at Castle Hill Hospital to ask for my notes to be forwarded, he was rude and said he couldn’t send my notes to ‘just anyone’. He was very difficult and made out like he didn’t know who I was talking about at the Royal Free.
“Then, just before I left, he mentioned the Professor’s name at the Royal Free, so he knew who and what I was talking about all along. I was disgusted and that prompted me to take legal action. You can’t play with peoples’ lives like that.
“These specialists are getting good salaries and to behave in that way is an insult. They should be prepared to be accountable for what they know and what they do. The chemotherapy I had was totally unnecessary.
“The notes were eventually sent through and they were told to stop the chemotherapy treatment. I never went back to Castle Hill. I never heard from them again after I called to say I wouldn’t be attending my next appointment.”
Mrs Huggett made the decision to switch her care to the Royal Free specialists, and scans and checks in London revealed she was cancer free.
She said: “I went to see the Royal Free specialists and have stayed with them, so I go every six months for assessments and they have been outstanding.”
Mrs Huggett says her diagnosis of having a low grade neuroendocrine tumour in August 2013, devastated her.
“I was floored when they told me I had cancer. I was 39 and had to face my own mortality,” she said.
“My children were aware I had a tumour but I was desperately trying to shelter them from the fact it was cancer. It devastated my eldest daughter. I had to tell them it was an unfriendly lump.
“I was told by the oncologist that my cancer was rare, it had only ever been seen in North America, only affects people over 60 and there was a 50 per cent chance of it recurring within 15 years. But after looking online, I realised this wasn’t the case at all.
“I was told they didn’t really know anything about it and I’d probably had my luck because it was low grade and easy to operate on.”
The two-hour operation, which also saw part of Mrs Huggett’s bowel removed, was a success. It was then that chemotherapy was recommended by her oncologist, and she says she put her complete faith in the hospital specialists.
“I was told that if I had chemotherapy, it was recommended that I should have it within weeks of the surgery, so it was recommended and offered to me. I put my faith in their hands and said let’s do it,” she said.
“I felt desperate because I kept wondering if it might come back, or if I had other tumours.”
Although Mrs Huggett is not expected to suffer any long term problems due to the chemotherapy, Hayley Collinson, a solicitor who specialises in compensation claims related to medical negligence, says it was “completely inexcusable” to fail to follow accepted guidelines.
“Mrs Huggett was put through avoidable extra pain, suffering and illness simply because medical experts failed to follow accepted UK and European guidelines to the best form of treatment following her operation. This is completely inexcusable and was completely avoidable,” said Mrs Collinson.
“If you are diagnosed with cancer, it’s not unusual to be told you need chemotherapy, so it’s understandable that she trusted her consultant and relied on their recommendation and went with it. Anybody else in Mrs Huggett’s position would have done the same.
“The guidelines are clear, however, in saying there is no benefit to having chemotherapy for the condition she had. So, there was no need for her to endure that extra suffering and associated side effects and illness.
“We are pleased to have secured compensation for her as a result of this and hope it goes some way towards helping her put this very traumatic time behind her.”
Mrs Huggett, a director of a renewables company, has raised about £1,600 for the NET Patient Foundation since her surgery, completing a skydive and also helping to raise awareness.
She added: “I feel like I can put some closure on it now.
“I needed to see my complaint through and get admissions, and Hudgell Solicitors have helped me to do that.
“It was incredibly straightforward from start to finish and I felt like I was working with them, rather than them working for me. I wanted answers and accountability, and that’s what I got in the end.”