A DAD has been given months to live after doctors repeatedly told him to just take painkillers.
Richard Paice, 51, from Stanbridge, Bedfordshire, has been told he’s got incurable bowel cancer.
It wasn’t until he was “really, really sick”, having lost a stone in weight and in agony, that Richard even got a scan.
He had spent weeks going back and forth to doctors complaining of key symptoms, including blood in his stool.
Richard’s wife, Sasha, 36, told The Times: “We’ve been told he might only have months to live. If they hadn’t kept sending us home the outlook could have been different.
“Our first trip to A&E was on March 4 but he wasn’t diagnosed until April 29.
“Those two months where doctors were not taking us seriously could have been two months where he was having chemotherapy.”
NHS figures show nine per cent of A&E patients in England return within a week of an initial visit, against a target of seven per cent.
The “unplanned reattendances” suggests almost one in 10 patients are not given the right diagnostics or treatment on their first visit.
Richard first started getting stomach pain in late February but, despite it being “severe”, was unable to get a same-day appointment at his GP surgery, Leighton Road Surgery.
Sasha told Leighton Buzzard Observer that she knew her husband’s pain must have been bad because he normally avoids the doctors.
By March 4, Richard had still been unable to see a GP and so went to A&E at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, still in pain.
However, as he hadn’t injured himself, he was referred to an emergency GP department.
He was told that he had pulled a muscle, and to take ibuprofen.
Less than 24 hours later, Sasha said his stools were black, a sign of bowel cancer.
“I rang up the GP surgery and said I needed to speak to somebody, but there were no appointments left”, she said.
Richard would have three more A&E trips, in which Sasha said he was “fobbed off” with paracetamol, ibuprofen, indigestion drugs and antibiotics.
Even after abnormal blood test results on April 7, Sasha claims the GP said they “weren’t too worried” and that Richard could have gallstones.
Sasha pleaded with the GP surgery to refer him for a scan, to which they agreed.
However, the family say they “never heard anything back”, by which point Richard was becoming “really, really sick”.
By April 26 Richard had chronic diarrhoea, felt very sick, and had lost more than a stone in weight.
The couple spent five hours at A&E once more in which Sasha pleaded for a scan – which a doctor agreed to.
But while she nipped out to do the school run, Richard was discharged for an unknown reason.
The couple returned the next day when Richard was so unwell that Sasha was “crying because I was frightened”.
Once more Sasha did the school run while Richard was being scanned, and received a life-changing phonecall.
Doctors said they had found something “suspicious” in his bowels but needed to do a biopsy.
“I couldn’t believe that it had come to this,” said Sasha.
“I had to receive this horrible news over the phone.”
The devastating bowel cancer diagnosis was confirmed on April 29, when a consultant said the cancer was progressive to stage 4 with spread to the liver.
Richard is receiving chemotherapy to extend his life, while the family have set up a JustGiving page.
Sasha said: “I think the appointment system needs a big review to ease pressure from the hospitals. It’s failing, and we need to raise awareness before this happens to so many more people.”
A Leighton Road Surgery spokesman said: “We are extremely sorry for the experience Mrs Paice has had.
“It is heart-breaking when the outcome for any patient is poor as healthcare providers want the best for all our patients.
“We will be investigating this incident with other healthcare partners involved so we can identify areas of care that need to be improved.
“We will also contact the family to offer any support.”
A BLMK CCG spokesman said: “We are sorry to learn of Mr and Mrs Paice’s experience and we have asked our quality team to review what has happened with his GP practice and the Luton and Dunstable Hospital.”
On behalf of Luton and Dunstable University Hospital, Paul Tisi, medical director at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “In order to protect confidentiality at all times, we do not comment on individual patient cases.
“However I am incredibly sad to hear this patient’s story and would urge the family to get in contact directly with our Patient Advice Liaison Service…”