The devastated family of a nana who died of lung cancer have slammed a health centre on Teesside for misdiagnosing her with an allergy.
Jacqueline Richardson, known as Jackie Richo, contacted her GP when she started suffering from swelling to the neck and aching arms in March 2020. The 58-year-old’s family, from Ormesby, claim she was treated with allergy tablets following a phone appointment with Crossfell Health Centre in Berwick Hills, Middlesbrough.
Her family claim she contacted the practice again after suffering from weight loss, breathlessness, bruises to the chest and puffy eyes but they continued to treat her for an allergy. Her heartbroken partner Gary Crimmons, 61, decided to book Jackie a private hospital appointment after she began to suffer from breathing difficulties.
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It was after that appointment that they discovered the mum-of-two had stage four lung cancer and needed urgent treatment. Gary claims she had all the main signs of stage four lung cancer but it wasn’t identified by her GP. He said there was three-and-a-half months in between her first contacting the surgery and discovering she had the disease via the private hospital.
Crossfell Health Centre, which has been rated ‘Good’ overall by the the Care Quality Commission (CQC) since 2015, offered Jackie’s family their condolences but said they are unable to comment on the matter.
Gary, who works as a construction manager, said: “Those months could be the difference between her being here today and not being here today. She didn’t get a choice, no one give her any proper advice. They were treating her for an allergy and it was getting worse, it wasn’t getting better. It’s assumption and that’s completely wrong in my eyes. A doctor should never have a single train of thought. He should be looking at all the options because the time was running out.
“She started experiencing breathing difficulties so I went private and got her a scan. She used to walk for miles and miles and all of a sudden she couldn’t walk to the front door. If we hadn’t gone private she would have dropped down dead. We had to find it out ourselves.”
Jackie, who is mum to Hannah, 29, and Alisha, 25, and nana to Hannah’s eight-year-old twins Rimannie and Riella, was being treated by Crossfell Health Centre on Crossfell Road during the first covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
Alisha, who works as a nurse, claims she contacted them to raise concerns about the treatment her mother was receiving. She said: “How would an allergy cause weight loss and breathlessness? The doctor said the dog shouldn’t sleep on the bed at night and they advised her to stop it. She’d done that for 11 years, since the dog was born, and she was fine!”
Gary said that they tried to move his partner of almost 30 years to another medical practice but were unable to do so due to the ongoing pandemic. He became so concerned about her health that he booked her in to Tees Valley Hospital in Acklam.
He said: “Jackie could tell by his face of the guy who did the scan that there was something there but he wasn’t allowed to tell her. The GP didn’t phone up straight away, it was another week before they came back to us.” Alisha added: “They didn’t ring us, we had to ring them and hound them.”
The family acknowledge that the first covid-19 lockdown had a large part to play as Jackie was initially unable to get an appointment to visit her GP in person. However they claim that when she did go into the practice, she was still being treated for an allergy. Gary said: “They offered her another set of tablets. They misdiagnosed her illness, it’s as simple as that.”
Jackie underwent targeted therapy and her tumour shrank but nine months later it started to grow again. She had radiotherapy but decided not to have chemotherapy after watching how poorly it made her late sister Carol. Sadly the cancer spread to Jackie’s brain and she passed away at home surrounded by her loving family on February 28.
Gary, Hannah and Alisha have praised the district nurses, Macmillan nurses and staff at James Cook University Hospital who looked after Jackie before she passed away. Gary said: “The nurses are still ringing me every week asking if I am alright. The nurses came to the funeral, I didn’t see a GP there. GPs have no connection with their patient’s anymore. You’re just a number to a GP now.”
On behalf of Crossfell Health Centre, a spokesperson for the Medical Defence Union (MDU) said: “While the practice wishes to offer its condolences, it is unable to comment on this matter.”
A full inspection was carried out by the CQC in 2017 in which the practice was rated ‘Good’ overall. Crossfell Health Centre was found to have good facilities and was well equipped to treat patients and meet their needs. The CQC report said results from the national GP patient survey showed patients were treated with compassion, dignity and respect and were involved in their care and decisions about their treatment.
In the same inspection, the practice was rated ‘requires improvement’ for providing responsive services as the arrangements in respect of patients’ access to appointments needed improvement. The CQC carried out two further inspections in May 2018 and December 2021 focused on patients’ access to appointments. Inspectors found, during their most recent recent last year, that people were able to access appointments in a timely manner.