Stanbridge mum's 'NHS in crisis' warning after husband's devastating terminal cancer diagnosis

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A Stanbridge mum is warning that the "NHS is in crisis" as she had to fight for her husband to see a doctor and be "taken seriously" - eventually finding out too late that he had Stage 4 cancer.

Sasha Paice, 36, claims that she tried desperately to book an appointment at Leighton Road Surgery when her husband had severe stomach pains, while A&E doctors at Luton and Dunstable Hospital (L&D) just sent him home with antacids.

However, after weeks of to-ing and fro-ing, Richard Paice, father-of-four and former Morning Crew presenter ‘Rentie’ on Chiltern FM, was given the devastating diagnosis that he had terminal cancer at just 51 years old.

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Leighton Road Surgery and BLMK CCG have said they will be investigating the incident.

Richard and Sasha.Richard and Sasha.
Richard and Sasha.

Sasha told the LBO: “My really big message is that if you aren't well, push and push and push until you are satisfied, because we never were."Who else is sat at home now because they have been diagnosed over the phone? It's too late for us now but it might not be too late for someone else."

Richard first experienced abdominal pain at the end of February, but Sasha claims that despite telling Leighton Road Surgery that it was "severe", she was unable to receive a same-day appointment.

She told the LBO: "Richard avoids doctors usually, but this time he wanted to go - I knew something was really wrong.

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"I kept ringing the GP surgery, but by the time I got through, the appointments were always gone."

Sasha and Richard with their four children; their eldest daughter, 16; twins, 15; and youngest daughter, 11.Sasha and Richard with their four children; their eldest daughter, 16; twins, 15; and youngest daughter, 11.
Sasha and Richard with their four children; their eldest daughter, 16; twins, 15; and youngest daughter, 11.

Desperate, in pain, and still without a GP appointment, Richard visited Luton and Dunstable University Hospital's A&E on March 4.

However, as he hadn't injured himself, he was referred to an emergency GP department, told that he had pulled a muscle, and to take Ibuprofen.

Sasha said: "Within 24 hours [of taking the tablets] his stools were black. I rang up the GP surgery and said I needed to speak to somebody, but there were no appointments left."

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Just three days later Richard was back in A&E. He had lost a stone in weight and felt increasingly ill.

"But he was sent home again with paracetamol and just told his stomach was irritated. No-one would look into the cause of it," said Sasha.

Now, over one month since he first felt ill, on April 5 Sasha contacted Leighton Road Surgery again and was supposed to receive a call back - but says she “never did".

With the stomach pain getting worse, Richard phoned 111 and was told an ambulance would be on its way.

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"But four-and-a-half hours later and there was no ambulance," said Sasha. "Richard was home alone with our eldest daughter, so we cancelled the ambulance and had to get a friend who lives 45 minutes away to drive him to hospital."

Sent home again from the L&D with antacid tablets, the family were increasingly frustrated.

On April 7, things finally started to progress when Richard had some blood samples taken.

However, Sasha claims the doctor didn't seem concerned when the results came back slightly abnormal."I phoned the next day and demanded to speak to a doctor," she said.

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"But the GP suggested it was his gall bladder - it was 'something grumbling' and they 'weren't too worried'".

Frustrated, 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".

Sasha remembers: "I rang the surgery and said 'Not one of your GPs has physically examined him and he looks so poorly'. But they said to carry on with the antacid tablets and wait for scan."

By April 26 Richard had chronic diarrhoea, felt very sick, and had lost more than a stone in weight.

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Determined to be seen, the couple went back yet again to A&E and waited for five hours.

The doctor listened to the couple's concerns and referred Richard for a scan - but in the time it took for Sasha to nip home for the school run, Richard had been "discharged without one".

Sasha told the LBO: "The next morning [April 28] Richard was so poorly, and I was crying because I was frightened. I rang the L&D, and was told by a nurse: 'We failed him. He never should have left the hospital - he is down as a failed discharge."

Sasha rushed Richard back to the L&D for a scan, before she nipped home for the school run.

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She claimed: "I received a phone call from the nurse who told me that Richard had: 'Lesions on the liver, something in his stomach. It doesn't look good. It's very suspicious'.

"I asked: 'What are you trying to tell me? Are you trying to tell me what I think you're trying to tell me?'

"But the nurse said she had revealed too much."A doctor then called Sasha back, but said they couldn't confirm it was cancer until a biopsy was done.

"I couldn't believe that it had come to this," said Sasha. "I had to receive this horrible news over the phone."

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Finally, on April 29, the devastating diagnosis was confirmed.A consultant explained that it was 98 per cent certain that Richard had a tumour in his stomach - and it was looking likely that it had spread to the liver. Once that happened, it would be Stage 4 cancer.

Sasha claims: "They pulled the curtain round on the L&D ward to tell us, but everybody could still hear. I could hear a man crying in a bed nearby because I was screaming and having a panic attack. I had to leave the ward; I couldn't breathe."

Afterwards, a nurse took Sasha to one side to ask if she had contacted a GP.

"I told her 'so many times!'" said Sasha. "The nurse said: 'I knew it. It just keeps happening and this is what we're left to deal with'."

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Now Richard has started chemotherapy to prolong his life, but Sasha claims that the hospital lost his blood results, meaning that initially, he is only allowed 50 per cent of the drugs.

Meanwhile, the family have set up a JustGiving page to help them make special memories with their Dad.

Richard is a big supporter of Arsenal, so the children would love to take him to a match, while the family would like to say a huge thank you to everyone for their support - £3,455 has been raised of the £1,000 target to date.

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.

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"I just hope if you read this and something isn't right- go back to the doctor or hospital and get help, ask for a second opinion."

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."

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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 on 01582 497 990 or email [email protected] who will listen to the concerns and ensure these are looked into as a matter of priority and ensure that healthcare needs are met.”> What do you think about Richard's story? Email: [email protected]

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