A 27-year-old woman had to call her doctors’ surgery more than 20 times to get an in-person appointment which revealed her cancer diagnosis.
Jessica Brady, of Stevenage in Hertfordshire, had a number of virtual appointments over five months that failed to spot her tumour before she died.
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Her mum, Andrea, told MPs at the Health and Social Care Committee on 14 September, that if doctors would have seen her daughter sooner, she might still be here.
‘No one took it seriously’
Andrea said: “Jess was a very gentle, sweet person, but she really did attribute her late diagnosis to the slow reaction of her GP surgery.”
“I think the most important thing is we feel, and Jess felt that no one listened, no one took it seriously and more than anything, she needed a permitted face-to-face appointment really early on, with people making notes.
“And also, during all that time, she wasn’t seen by one designated doctor, four different doctors spoke to Jess and prescribed her medication. And we think that was really key.”
Jessica first phoned her doctors in summer last year after experiencing pain in her abdominal and was told she had a kidney infection.
After her symptoms worsened blood tests revealed Jessica had high D-dimer levels and doctors prescribed her antibiotics, steroids and an inhaler.
‘Element of panic’
After more results concluded concerns aroud her liver function medics still waited for six weeks to act and by this time the cancer was untreatable.
The family doctor said Jessica “probably needs a gastroscopy”, Andrea told the committee.
Andrea added: “That didn’t happen until two days before Jess received her diagnosis when I think there was an element of panic, because she was receiving quite a lot of phone calls at that stage, and saying you probably need a gastroscopy.
“In fairness, if that had happened three months earlier, obviously her cancer would not have spread – well we think it wouldn’t have spread so aggressively by then.”
A gastroscopy involves a camera taking pictures inside the stomach which can check symptoms or confirm a diagnosis.
After Jessica managed to see a doctor in-person, a private health care professional diagnosed her with stage four cancer of the lungs, bones, spine and liver.
Campaign for cancer specialists
Jessica went to hospital on the day of her diagnosis and died three and a half weeks later on December 20.
Jessica’s parents are now campaigning for a cancer specialist in every GP surgery, a public health campaign on cancer signs in young people and a dedicated GP for each patient.
It comes as Sajid Javid has told more GPs to open their doors and see their patients face to face.
‘More GPs should be offering face-to-face access’
The Health Secretary told MPs the government “intends to do a lot more” to ensure this happens, although he did not give details of what action is planned.
Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP Dean Russell raised concerns over some GP surgeries in his Watford constituency “still not opening their doors” to see patients.
Javid said: ““I think everyone can understand why during the height of the pandemic that GPs couldn’t provide access in the normal way.
“But we’re way past that now, life is starting to return almost back to completely normal and as that is happening it should be happening in our GP surgeries too, and more GPs should be offering face-to-face access.”
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