Greenwich nurse left furious as hospital diagnoses her with gallstones when she had ovarian cancer


A hospital has apologised to a nurse after the A&E department failed to notice that she had ovarian cancer.

Shooters Hill resident Sharon Dobbs was admitted to the A&E department at Greenwich’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital complaining of an acute pain in her stomach and shortness of breath.

She was given antibiotics, diagnosed with gallstones and sent home to rest.

But the next day she found out she had ovarian cancer and more than three-and-a-half litres of fluid on her abdomen after admitting herself to a private hospital for an urgent ultrasound.

Mrs Dobbs said: “I felt fluid in my stomach pushing up into my diaphragm.

“If I had listened to the A&E advice, I don’t know where I would be at the moment.

“After I was diagnosed, I was told it was a very aggressive cancer.

“I was so weak from the disease they couldn’t operate straight away. I had to be sent home and built up with nutrients for a week before going back for surgery.”

Sharon Dobbs on her wedding day with husband Lawrence Richards

Mrs Dobbs, who is a nurse at a private hospital, had asked for an urgent ultrasound, but she was told to wait for the routine ultrasound which could have taken up to a week.

Since then, she has undergone six cycles of chemotherapy and her uterus was removed through a total abdominal hysterectomy.

She has been told that she has a 50 per cent chance of living past the next three to five years, and an 80 per cent chance of the cancer returning.

But she is infuriated by the thought that it could have been worse.

She said: “The one time I have needed the NHS, it has failed me horrifically.

“If I was not a nurse, I would have believed the doctor. I would have gone home and I would have been taken in by an ambulance with a far more advanced stage of the disease.”

Mrs Dobbs then complained about the treatment she received. She was sent a letter from Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust chief executive Tim Higginson.

Mr Higginson said that her doctor had asked her GP to arrange an emergency outpatient ultrasound, and that the “initial diagnosis and management plan were reasonable.”

Mrs Dobbs was enraged by this letter. She asked for all the documentation from her time in the A&E. She then had a meeting with the patient advisory liaison service and the emergency department consultant.

She said: “It was actually quite horrific, they basically just said that there is a lot of pressure on NHS services, Ovarian cancer is rare and frequently missed and I was lucky it was not Pancreatic cancer which is more deadly.

“The documentation shows that clearly there was no urgent ultrasound ordered. They said the doctor had made a verbal request for an ultrasound. But there is nothing to prove that.

“Members of the public should question doctors. Get notes from the doctors. Make sure the history being taken is accurate.

“I’m a nurse and I wouldn’t be a very good nurse if I didn’t push this. I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

She now plans to write a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and she wants to raise awareness of Ovarian cancer, for doctors and patients.

“They say ovarian cancer is the silent killer,” she said. “But in my case I was saying clearly to the doctor that I thought my symptoms were cancer.

“I was trying to signpost to them what was going on, but they wouldn’t listen.

“A system under stress does not make poor practice acceptable or right.”

A spokesman for the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said: “We are extremely sorry that Sharon Dobbs was unhappy with her care, and we have apologised to her.

“We strive to provide the best care for every patient, every time, but on this occasion we clearly fell short.”

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