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'Missed opportunities' led to fatal two-year delay in Maidenhead grandmother's cancer diagnosis

A Maidenhead grandmother has died from lung cancer after ‘missed opportunities’ led to a fatal two-year delay in her diagnosis.

Irene Ellingham, a retired businesswoman who set up haulage firm Bennett Transport in the 1980s and also volunteered at Maidenhead Synagogue, first suffered with lung problems in 2018.

She was diagnosed with pneumonia and possible Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease while a patient of the Parkside Suite, a private ward at Wexham Park Hospital.

After undertaking two CT scans, Irene’s results were ‘abnormal’, but no further action was taken by doctors. A follow-up X-ray was booked for four-to-six-months time, but never took place.

It was not until more than two years later that Irene was diagnosed with cancer in May 2020. She died on May 11, just days after the diagnosis, aged 74.

A Serious Incident Report seen by the Advertiser states that there should have been a ‘high degree of suspicion’ that Irene had lung cancer following the scans in 2018.

The investigation found that the radiologist who conducted the scans did not specialise in the imaging of chests, and the report stated that the failure to refer her to a lung cancer specialist following the scan was a ‘missed opportunity’ to diagnose her condition.

Since her death, Irene’s family have campaigned to raise awareness of the signs of lung cancer and have urged patients to ask more questions of their doctors.

Irene’s daughter Lisa said: “Mum was a force of nature who was still really active until the start of 2018 when she started having problems with her cough. Following that she was never quite the same again.

“She would be short of breath and struggled to do a lot of things she once took for granted. She trusted wholeheartedly what the doctors were saying and had no reason to believe otherwise.

“Even though she was becoming more poorly it was a huge shock when we were finally told she had cancer. For her to die within a few days of her diagnosis has made everything even harder to try and come to terms with.

“It’s difficult not to feel Mum was badly let down when she needed help the most. We know that nothing can bring her back, we just hope that by speaking out others are aware of the signs of cancer, and if they feel they need to question what they are told by doctors."

A spokeswoman from the Frimley Health NHS Trust said: “We have conducted a thorough investigation into Mrs Ellingham’s care, and we have shared and discussed our findings with her family.

“We again offer them our sincere condolences and we will continue to keep them informed of any developments, including any actions taken following our review.

“As legal proceedings are ongoing it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

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