A mum died of cancer after it was misdiagnosed as acid reflux on the phone.
Her husband claimed that she could not get a face-to-face appointment with a doctor due to Covid.
Raymond Gower, 74, said his wife Trish, also 74, had to wait two months for a correct in-person diagnosis, which gave the aggressive cancer time to spread.
The dad-of-two said she struggled to get a face-to-face appointment for a cough due to Covid-19 last year, and was told over the phone that she had acid reflux.
By the time doctors finally realised she actually had an aggressive and rapidly-spreading cancer in her lungs, ovaries and lymphatic system, it was too late.
The cancer was inoperable and she died.
‘We begged for a face-to-face appointment’
Retired Raymond believes a face-to-face appointment could have saved her life.
He said: "When my wife arrived at the hospital she was treated so well, but it took far too long to get her there so she could get the treatment she needed.
"When we begged for a face-to-face appointment, we were denied access to the surgery.
"She was healthy before she began to get short of breath - and I know she lost her life sooner than she was supposed to and it is heart-breaking.
"I have been with my wife since we were 15 and I can’t remember a time without her - we travelled the world and raised a family together.
"Now I have to live without her knowing it could have been different and I don’t know what to do with myself."
Trish denied in-person appointment ‘due to Covid’
Trish developed a cough in February 2021.
Several tests confirmed it was not Covid-19, but as the cough worsened and she began to get short of breath, Raymond said they tried to book her in for a GP appointment.
But he said they were told she couldn’t see someone face to face due to Covid restrictions.
Following her phone appointment, Raymond said she was diagnosed with gastric reflux and prescribed two three-week courses of heartburn medication.
Raymond said: "After the first round, I called up the doctor and begged for an in-person appointment.
"I remember saying ‘it’s not good enough, can’t you examine her?’ but it didn’t make a difference."
Trish diagnosed with incurable lung cancer
Trish was suspicious it may be something more serious when she became unable to walk down the hallway or complete a sentence without gasping for breath.
Raymond said it wasn’t until Trish developed lumps in her throat that doctors would see her face-to-face - two months after first calling the doctor.
She was sent for an emergency scan and diagnosed with incurable lung cancer in her right lung.
It transpired the cancer had originated in her ovaries, undetected, before spreading to her lungs and was also present in her lymphatic system.
She had chemotherapy to extend her life but after three rounds Raymond said doctors confirmed it wasn’t working, and it was too late.
She passed away from lung cancer on July 26 2021.
‘I have to live without her knowing it could have been different’
Raymond claims her death could have been prevented had Trish been able to get a face-to-face appointment sooner.
He said: "We were never explicitly told they wouldn’t see her face to face because of a Covid regime but we could tell they were being careful - even when I begged.
"I have been with my wife since we were 15 and I can’t remember a time without her - I just don’t know what to do with myself.
"I don’t know how long I have left to live, but however long it is, I have to do it alone and that breaks my heart.
"Now I have to live without her knowing it could have been different."
What Sussex NHS Commissioners said
A spokesperson for Sussex NHS Commissioners said: “Our sincere condolences are with Mr Gower and his family on the sad passing of his wife.
“Face to face appointments have remained available in Sussex throughout the pandemic and we would always encourage patients to speak to their GP practice if they have any concerns about their health, especially a new concern.
“We would encourage Mr Gower to contact us directly to discuss his concerns.”
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