Clinical treatment outside hospital
Upheld in whole or in part
Non-public interest report issued: complaint upheld
Velindre University NHS Trust
Mrs Y complained that Velindre University NHS Trust did not provide reasonable care and treatment to her son, Mr X, after March 2020. Mrs Y also complained that the Trust did not handle her complaint properly.
The Ombudsman noted that the Covid-19 pandemic began to have a significant impact in the UK in March 2020. The Ombudsman found that Mr X had already received 2 combinations of chemotherapy by 10 February, and these had not been successful, so even before March 2020 there were limited options available to Mr X. All clinical trials were closed to new patients from March, so the only possible treatment option available to Mr X from that time was chemotherapy. Because Mr X had not reacted positively to 2 attempts at chemotherapy, he was prioritised as the lowest priority level to receive treatment, and the chances of him reacting well to a third attempt were remote. The Ombudsman accepted advice that it would have been reasonable not to have offered a third attempt at chemotherapy even without the pandemic, and that in light of the information about the impact of Covid-19 on chemotherapy patients coming from China and Italy, it was reasonable not to provide a third attempt at chemotherapy to Mr X in the circumstances. The complaint was not upheld.
However, the Ombudsman found that communication with Mr X and his family was limited, and that after March 2020, the reasons for not providing further chemotherapy to Mr X were not clearly recorded.
The Ombudsman upheld Mrs Y’s complaint that the Trust did not handle her complaint properly, because the Trust pushed for meetings inappropriately, sought additional consents when this was not required, sent an email to an incorrect email address, and did not advise Mrs Y of this data breach in a timely way. All of these errors occurred at a time when the family were grieving, which caused them distress and injustice.
The Trust agreed to apologise to Mrs Y for the identified failings, and to confirm what safeguards it had put in place to ensure that correspondence to complainants was not sent to incorrect email addresses.