A TEACHER has claimed that her life has been ruined by a “botched” operation at a Scottish hospital.
Amanda Larkins underwent surgery at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh for a bowel condition more than a year ago. But when the operation left her bed-ridden and in constant pain, she claims that NHS Lothian refused to carry out further tests or treatment.
Larkins, 32, said she was forced to travel to a London hospital to have her condition assessed. Doctors at St Mark’s Hospital there discovered she was suffering from a major obstruction following the surgery in Edinburgh and needed to have another operation.
Medical staff at St Mark’s wrote to NHS Lothian nine months ago with their findings and recommended she has corrective surgery to get rid of the blockage – but Larkins says health officials in Edinburgh have refused to perform the operation.
Now Larkins has won the support of her MSP, Scotland’s culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, who has described the case as “one of the most disturbing” she has seen. Hyslop has written to the chairman of NHS Lothian, Charles Winstanley, to ask him to look into the case as a matter of urgency.
Larkins, of Bathgate, West Lothian, said: “My life has quite literally ended since that operation. The pain does not stop. I can’t walk and have to stay in bed. I just can’t believe how these doctors have washed their hands of me.
“I am having to beg to be seen by the hospital and a year on I am still no further forward. I am disgusted and appalled at NHS Lothian. I am not playing a blame game, I know things can go wrong and operations can be botched for various reasons, but if and when they do, doctors surely have a duty to sort things out. As it is, my life is effectively over. I am 32, jobless and can’t leave my house.”
The teacher and her partner Kathy, 31, say that if the hospital continues to refuse to correct the obstruction they will be left with no option but to move house so Larkins can be treated by another health board authority.
“The board has said it will not pay for surgery to be carried out in another area because I live in Lothian I need to be treated there. But it’s a Catch 22 as they won’t treat me so we are now very close to selling up and moving so I get this operation,” Larkins said.
“In a nutshell, this is a whitewash, a cover-up. All the hospital in Edinburgh will do for me is give me painkiller after painkiller, which doesn’t work anymore. I cannot live like this for the rest of my life. I have no life.”
The couple say they cannot afford to pay for the operation privately and also believe because the original surgery was carried out on the NHS that it should fund the corrective surgery.
The London doctors say Larkins, who has ulcerative colitis, needs an operation to “re-do” the operation she had at the Western General. The surgery was supposed to create a pouch near her small intestine because she has trouble digesting food. The tests they carried out showed there was a “flap obstruction” which is causing her chronic pain.
Larkins had emergency surgery for her condition at the Western General in April 2011 when she had her large intestine removed. It was during follow-up surgery in December last year, when doctors created a pouch near her small intestine, that the obstruction is understood to have been created.
The teacher said: “I knew within a couple of days of that operation something was seriously wrong. I had never had pain like it. It was and still is excruciating. Every day I am in agony. It has aged me years and I am very, very down.
“The doctors in Edinburgh say they don’t agree with the specialist in London’s diagnosis of an obstruction. I have had to beg just to have the same tests done in Edinburgh to prove this. I am still waiting. And what worries me is if they can do this to me, how many other people are being treated this badly and are having to live in unnecessary pain.”
Last night Hyslop told Scotland on Sunday: “I am deeply concerned about this case. It is one of the most difficult cases I’ve received as an MSP.
“We have been trying hard to get action from NHS Lothian and this has not yet happened.”
Dr David Farquharson, medical director at NHS Lothian, said doctors were planning to meet with Larkins to discuss her care and plan “the way forward”.
He said: “We are doing all we can to work with Larkins to meet her needs and provide care that matches her expectations.
“A detailed, ongoing programme of care has been drawn up by our expert medical and nursing teams to provide pain management, treatment and surgical procedures and we are working through those appointments, which stretch into the coming months, with her.”
» natalie.walker@ scotlandonsunday.com