Cancer patient devastated to be told vital operation likely to be cancelled for third time

A cancer patient said today she had been left devastated after facing a third cancelled operation and the prospect of having to travel 250 miles for surgery.ten

Gillian Crawford with her husband Craig Scott on their wedding day in October
Gillian Crawford with her husband Craig Scott on their wedding day in October

Gillian Crawford, who has abdominal cancer, had her original ten-hour operation at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee cancelled last month at the last minute as she was about to go into the operating theatre because of a lack of intensive care beds.

The insurance sales manager’s operation was rescheduled for a week later, and then to next Monday, but she was told on Friday there was “little or no chance” it would go ahead.

Crawford, 48, from Perth, was also informed that while the surgery may take place later next week, it might be switched to the nearest other specialist centre, in Manchester.

Gillian Crawford said: "The system’s failing and it’s failed me twice"

Her ordeal follows being diagnosed with cancer of the appendix and having surgery to remove a tumour in April.

She has also undergone chemotherapy.

Crawford has pain in her joints and struggles to move her hands and ankles.

She told Scotland on Sunday: "I’ve got tumours inside me. My surgeon totally has my back and it falls down at the last hurdle, and that’s twice.

"I’m devastated.

"The system’s failing and it’s failed me twice.

“Week by week, I’ve got gradually worse.”

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Crawford said she was constantly thinking about when her operation would go ahead.

She said: "It’s never out of my mind.

"If you are cancer patient, you never forget – it’s always with you.”

Crawford, who has lodged a complaint about her treatment with NHS Tayside, stressed: “This is not a pop at the NHS themselves, because they have been fantastic.

"It’s about the prioritising of cancer patients, and what’s classed as emergencies against elective surgeries.

"Nobody would want their family member knowing they had a serious thing that needs dealt with by operation, and a planned operation just can be cancelled at the last minute – that’s down to management.”

Crawford’s case was put to Covid Recovery Secretary John Swinney by her MSP Jim Fairlie at Holyrood’s Covid recovery committee last month.

Fairlie said: “She contacted me in some distress because she is fearful for her life.”

Swinney said: “The circumstances are deeply regrettable, but I am afraid the burdens that are being wrestled with in the National Health Service make such examples a possible consequence of the pressures.

"If there are individuals who require intensive care support, we have to be satisfied that capacity is available for them, whether they are coming into hospital for a pre-planned operation, as in the case of Mr Fairlie’s constituent, or whether there has been an immediate emergency and somebody requires intensive care support that could not have been predicted.

"We have to plan for those two circumstances.”

A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: “We are in direct contact with the patient and her family about her care and are exploring all options with them.

“Any decision to defer a procedure is always taken as a last resort.

"Our staff try their very best to minimise any disruption to our planned procedures as we appreciate that this is both upsetting and inconvenient for patients and their families.

“If a patient’s surgery is postponed by us for any reason, we will reschedule as soon as possible.”

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