Clinical treatment in hospital
Upheld in whole or in part
Non-public interest report issued: complaint upheld
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board
Mr E complained about the delay between his initial referral by his GP to the Health Board in September 2019, for treatment of his Basal Cell Carcinoma (“BCC” – a small lesion or growth that is the most common type of skin cancer), and his treatment in May 2021. He felt that the delay was excessive, and also that it meant he needed more specialist and substantial surgery than if he had been seen earlier.
The investigation found that while Mr E did have to wait significantly longer than relevant target times, this was largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which significantly restricted all dermatology appointments over that period, as the Health Board’s police was to only treat urgent (life-threatening) cancers. There was not sufficient evidence available to establish how early Mr E would have had to have been seen to possibly have had less invasive surgery, and factors such as the site and shape of the BCC meant that the more specialist surgery may have been needed in any case. The Ombudsman therefore did not uphold these elements of the complaint. The Ombudsman also considered whether the communication with Mr E about his referrals was sufficient, and found that it was not. As Mr E had shown he was willing to pay privately for part of his treatment, if he had been updated regarding the length of time he might have to wait, he might have considered private treatment earlier. This was therefore an injustice to Mr E, and this aspect of the complaint was partly upheld.
The Ombudsman recommended that the Health Board should apologise to Mr E for the lack of communication regarding his delayed appointment, and offer him £250 in recognition of his time and trouble in chasing his referrals. The Ombudsman also recommended that the Health Board make clear in their initial dermatology letters that the wait for some services may significantly exceed the NHS target times quoted, and that that it considers updating all dermatology patients who have been waiting in excess of target times, and providing clearer explanations to complainants regarding how Covid-19 restrictions affected their treatment, when appropriate.