Hundreds suffer cancer scare after admin error

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Suzanne Trask

Hospital bosses at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust have apologised to 850 patients after sending out letters that incorrectly indicated they may be suffering with cancer, it has been reported recently.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp we understand that the consequences of administrative mistakes such as this can’t be simply resolved by an apology. After the shock of receiving an incorrect diagnosis of cancer or another serious condition, patients sometimes go on to develop psychological injuries. In some circumstances, severe psychological conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety can develop.

The Trust outsources printing and distributing appointment letters to an external printing company who inadvertently miscoded 850 letters, resulting in a ‘two week information’ leaflet being enclosed with an urgent appointment letter. Elizabeth Fellows, Assistant Director of Operations at the Trust, said: ”It was an administrative error and we would again apologise for any unnecessary anxiety this error may have caused…when this error became apparent it was stopped immediately and letters of apology were sent to those who had received the incorrect leaflet.”

It has come to light that the hospital was aware of the error on 18 March when a patient, who is also in the healthcare profession, received the letter and immediately informed them of the mistake. The Trust has not provided an explanation for the two month delay in contacting the patients concerned.

Patients can bring a claim for compensation for injury suffered due to medical negligence where they develop a psychological condition as a result of an incorrect suggestion that they may be suffering with a serious condition. At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we have considerable experience of helping people with psychological injuries to obtain compensation and we understand the impact these injuries can have. Find out more on bringing a medical negligence claim.

I am a Partner at Bolt Burdon Kemp specialising in Medical Negligence claims. If you or a loved one are concerned about the treatment you have received, contact me free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4834 or at for specialist legal advice. Alternatively, you can complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Medical Negligence team will contact you. You can find out more about the team here.


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