Family claims doctors made scan error before nurses cancer death

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The family of a retired nurse who died of lung cancer claims her life-threatening health problems were missed on a scan months before she passed away.

Marva Barra’s health deteriorated rapidly after being told she had stage four cancer and a collapsed lung.

The 65-year-old great-grandmother underwent a scan following a persistent cough months earlier but medics told her she had asthma, her loved ones claim.

The NHS Trust involved has admitted Marva’s care “did not meet its usual high standards”.

The nurse, who delayed her retirement to help during the COVID-19 pandemic, died in January 2023, weeks after being told the true extent of her health problems.

When she was finally diagnosed in December last year, she soon suffered a stroke and so was unable to have cancer treatment.

Speaking to Manchester Evening News, the woman’s daughter Michelle Grace-Bloomfield said: “If it was a small tumour or cancerous cells that they missed, I could perhaps understand it, but her lung had collapsed and no one saw it on the scan – it seems a bit much really.

“It was so traumatic in a way I can’t explain. [The cancer and collapsed lung] was already there on the scan from September.”

Marva, who lived in Blackley, Manchester, developed a persistent cough in September last year. The gran-of-14, who never smoked, took herself to North Manchester General Hospital where a scan was performed but doctors concluded the woman was suffering from asthma, her family said.

Michelle added: “Being a nurse for so many years, she might have known something was wrong. The hospital staff said that everything on the scan was fine and that it was just asthma, they sent her away with more inhalers. Then my mum kept deteriorating, her breathing was getting worse and worse.

“In November, she went to hospital with suspected pneumonia. She had another scan, this time medics saw that her left lung had collapsed, but they had missed it in the previous scan – and that she had stage four cancer.”

Michelle has now been left wondering if the outcome would have been different had medics spotted the collapsed lung and cancer first time round.

She said: “Staff had said that when they have gone back to the scan taken in September, it was a low grade cancer that could have been treated. When they had the realisation in December, it had already spread to her liver, bones and further into her lungs.”

Michelle, who has four siblings, said her mother’s colleagues had been “absolutely beautiful and really supportive, a few close colleagues were constantly there looking after her”.

She said: “I’m hoping that mistakes like this don’t happen again.”

Dr Rafik Bedair, Chief Medical Officer at Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We would like to express our sympathies to Marva’s family for their loss. We have investigated the care provided to Marva and unfortunately this did not meet the usual high standards we pride ourselves on delivering.

“An action plan has been developed to address the issues identified and to prevent them from happening again, and this has been shared with our staff and with Marva’s family.”

Michelle and her family are raising money in memory of her mum, who herself was a keen fundraiser, starting a GoFundMe for a new radiography machine that can detect problems like collapsed lungs and cancer in early stages. 

If you would like to donate to the fundraiser, head here.

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