Missed cancer diagnosis widower criticises Southmead Hospital report

Julie O’Connor died on 4 February, after her condition was missed several times

The husband of a woman who died after repeated failures to diagnose her cervical cancer says he is “convinced there are other victims out there”.

Julie O’Connor was given the all-clear by doctors at Southmead Hospital in Bristol more than three years before a private doctor diagnosed her cancer.

An NHS report, seen by the BBC, has concluded there were “errors and failings” in Mrs O’Connor’s care.

The trust has said it was “extremely sorry for failing Mrs O’Connor.”

Mrs O’Connor had a cervical smear test in September 2014 that came back as negative.

Doctors at Southmead said she had another condition known as a cervical ectropion. She was eventually diagnosed three years later by a private consultant who found a 4.5cm tumour.

Mrs O’Connor and her husband Kevin later sued the hospital for its failings.

Julie O'ConnorMrs O’Connor was an intensive care nurse, a school nurse and a nurse in the private sector

An independent report said there were “serious errors” and a failing by the trust to act urgently when it was discovered Mrs O’Connor did have advanced cervical cancer.

It said staff would “always carry with them the knowledge they could and should have done better”.

But Mr O’Connor criticised the report, saying it does not cover the full length of his wife’s cancer care.

“It doesn’t go back to 2014, it doesn’t cover the smears, the biopsies and the missed clinical observations,” he said.

“We need to consider other victims, I am convinced there are other victims out there.”

Kevin O'Connor
Kevin O’Connor said the report did not cover the full length of his wife’s cancer care

Prof Tim Whittlestone, North Bristol NHS Trust’s acting deputy medical director, said the trust was “sorry for causing Mrs O’Connor’s family so much pain and suffering”.

“We are determined to learn from this and have made significant changes to the way we examine and test for cervical cancer, which I am confident will detect and prevent more cases in future,” he said.

“We fully accept the recommendations of the independent review and have been discussing publication dates with Mr O’Connor.”


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