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Child's brain tumour missed by doctors for seven months

Health board forced to apologise over 'significant injustice' which led to boy suffering for longer.

Apology: Health board says sorry to family over delay in diagnosis (file pic).
Apology: Health board says sorry to family over delay in diagnosis (file pic). Peter Byrne / PA Archive/PA Images

A five-year-old child suffered for longer than he should have because doctors missed his brain tumour for seven months.

The health board behind the blunder has now apologised after Scotland's public services watchdog ruled a paediatrician failed to diagnose the boy at an earlier stage.

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) Jim Martin upheld a complaint from the child's mother about the treatment her son received from NHS Forth Valley

He said he had "considerable concerns" about the standard of paediatric care that had been provided, which he said had led to a "significant injustice" to the child and his family.

The boy's mother complained her son was forced to suffer for longer than necessary because of the failures of doctors between January and August 2014.

The child was referred to a paediatrician at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in January 2014 with vomiting and headaches, and was seen on three occasions from then until July that year.

He was not diagnosed with a brain tumour until the following month after collapsing at home and being admitted to the hospital as an emergency.

Despite undergoing "lengthy and difficult" surgery, it was impossible to remove the tumour completely, meaning the boy had to undergo chemotherapy and suffered "neurological defects".

The investigation took evidence from paediatric specialists who concluded the boy, referred to as Child A in the report, should have been referred for a brain scan at an earlier stage.

It was likely an earlier diagnosis "would have meant a smaller tumour and a shorter, less challenging operation".

Mr Martin concluded: "My view is that these failures led to a significant personal injustice to Child A.

"The unreasonable delay meant that an opportunity to completely remove the tumour was missed, and in this respect I note that Child A required additional treatment (chemotherapy) with significant risks and was left with neurological defects.

"In addition, Child A's collapse was very traumatic for them and their family."

He recommended Forth Valley NHS Board apologises to the family involved and ensures all relevant staff are aware of guidelines relating to the diagnosis of brain tumours in children and young people.

The report noted the paediatrician is no longer an employee of the health board.

A statement from NHS Forth Valley said: "We recognise that aspects of the care we provided fell below our usual high standards and we have met with the family to offer them our sincere apologies.

"A number of actions have also been taken to address the issues highlighted in the report.

"This includes arranging additional training for paediatric staff to improve the diagnosis of children and young people with brain tumours."

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