Wrexham GP cleared of misconduct in treating cancer patient

Published date: 17 January 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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A GP who treated a cancer patient weeks before she died has been cleared of professional misconduct.

Dr Denis Meyrick Edwards, who described the patient as “totally obsessed with worry” about contracting the disease weeks before she died, was earlier cleared of failing to make an urgent referral to a specialist.

The 60-year-old woman consulted Dr Edwards eight times at the Forge Road Surgery in Wrexham when she was suffering from drastic weight loss.

Despite showing other ‘red flag symptoms’ such as nausea and a hard lump below her right armpit, the 58-year-old doctor gave her antibiotics and sent her home, a hearing was told.

During the final appointment on November 24, 2009, he recorded that the woman was experiencing “abdominal pains”, the Medical Practitioners' Tribunal Service heard.

The life-long smoker was taken to Wrexham Hospital a week later on December 1 with breathing difficulties and was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer which had spread throughout her chest.

The cancer was so advanced that she died just eight days later on December 9, 2009.

A fitness to practise hearing in Manchester accused Dr Edwards of misconduct over his dealings with the patient.

He had previously admitted he he should have referred his patient for an urgent chest X-ray in November, 2009.

But the panel, chaired by the Rev Robert Lloyd-Richards, found  this had been an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished 35-year career and Dr Edwards was cleared of professional misconduct.

The panel found he did make a referral for an “urgent specialist investigation” when he wrote ‘just a sebaceous or something more sinister’ in a letter to a consultant.

Dr Edwards held his hands up to a number of record-keeping errors, but maintained he had adequately examined his patient and had formulated a treatment plan.

The panel agreed his assessments were adequate as the woman – referred to in the hearing as patient A – had “unusual” symptoms of lung cancer.

Mr Lloyd-Richards said: “The panel is of the view that you formulated a possible diagnosis in the context of a complex developing situation.

“The panel has heard evidence, written and oral, that patient A had fluctuating and confounding co-morbidities.

“Accordingly, the panel has determined that the circumstances of patient A’s situation were such that they were not only multi-factorial but that the patient presented with a highly unusual manifestation of lung cancer.”

After being found not guilty of misconduct yesterday, Mr Lloyd-Richards told Dr Edwards: “You admitted at the outset of this hearing that on November 12, 2009, you should have made a referral for an urgent chest X-ray.

“While the panel accepts failing to do so fell below a reasonable standard of care, it does not conclude, in the context of your other actions, including the referral for an urgent dermatology assessment, that such failure constitutes an act of serious professional misconduct.”

He added: “In the light of the panel’s findings of fact it has noted that you made inadequate records of some of the consultations you had with patient A.

“The panel has, however, determined that in the context of your overall care of patient A, deficiencies in your record-keeping did not constitute in themselves serious professional misconduct.

“The panel is of the view that this was an isolated incident and considers that you have shown insight. It recognises that you have taken steps to remedy the deficiencies identified and you have apologised at the outset of this hearing for any failings on your part.

“The panel has taken account of the testimonials provided and considers you to be a doctor who is held in high esteem by your patients and colleagues.”

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