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GP who failed to spot breast cancer “was negligent”

26 October 2007

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A judge has ruled that a GP from Portsmouth who failed to diagnose breast cancer in a woman who later died from the disease was negligent.

Family doctor Sarah Tottle assessed Sharon Adshead at the Queen’s Road surgery after she found a lump in May 2000.

But the newly qualified locum did not refer her to a specialist, and wrongly reassured her it was benign, a court has heard.

Mrs Adshead was finally diagnosed 15 months later, and despite chemotherapy and a mastectomy, she died in January 2003 at the age of 35.

Mr Justice Gray, sitting at Winchester District Court, ruled that Dr Tottle had failed in her duty, and awarded Mrs Adshead’s husband Martin £325,000 in damages plus his legal costs.

The judge said that even though the examination was “impeccable”, the GP had found a lump and Mrs Adshead should have been urgently referred to a specialist in line with Department of Health guidelines.

He added: “I have no doubt that Dr Tottle meant well, but I am satisfied that she failed to advise Mrs Adshead of the need to attend for review and the importance of breast clinic referral and gave her a false sense of security.

“In these respects Dr Tottle was in my view negligent in her management of Mrs Adshead.”

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