Mum ‘failed’ by Western Trust

The late Betty Fleming
The late Betty Fleming

The family of a Derry woman who died after her x-rays were not followed up at Altnagelvin Hospital have said they have been “failed” by the Western Trust.

Betty Fleming died from cancer in September 2011 after experiencing a seven month delay in reporting an x-ray that was taken in the hospital in January 2010.

Mrs Fleming was the mother of two former mayors of Derry, Paul and Lynn Fleming, and the family is regarded as one of the most prominent republican families in the city.

The family said they decided to speak out after the publication of a report from the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) which found that the health of patients was affected when thousands of x-rays went unreported at Altnagelvin and Craigavon hospitals.

Explaining what happened, the Fleming family said: “Our mother, Betty Fleming was one of the four patients, who experienced a seventh month delay in reporting on an x-ray taken in January 2010. At an out-patient review in May 2010 the x-ray result was not followed up, and subsequently was not reported until August 2010. “This delay caused untold distress to our mother at an already difficult time. To further compound the situation we as a family were not informed of the delay until 3 February 2011, after it was reported in the media.”

The family also said the Western Trust should be held accountable. “Historically the Western Trust has been involved in other high profile independent reviews yet lessons do not appear to have been learned. Governance systems within the Western Trust have failed our family. Our mother did not receive safe, effective, high quality services which should have been afforded to her. Issues of delayed reports were known as far back as 2008 yet effective measures were not put in place until two years later, resulting in a backlog of 19,500 x-rays. The Western Trust did not deal with this matter in an open and transparent manner. Prompt reporting of concerns by the Trust to the Health Minister or Health Committee may have resulted in a different outcome. We feel the Western Trust is responsible for the failures detailed in this report and must be held accountable for that,” the family said.

The Flemings also expressed solidarity with the other families affected by the delay in reporting x-rays.

Gerard Guckian, Chairman of the Western Trust, said; “To experience any delay in diagnosis is not the standard of care anyone should expect. I offer my sincerest apologies to those patients and their families who were affected and I deeply regret the distress caused.”