A grieving mother who lost her two-year-old daughter to a rare form of lung cancer has told how she had to fight for a GP appointment the day before the child was finally diagnosed.
Kelly Clarkson saw six doctors and five nurses over 28 months with her daughter Megan, who had developed a bad cough in September 2016.
The 37-year-old mother to Myles, aged five, told The Scotsman that she was made to feel like a “time-waster” after phoning for an appointment as her daughter suffered breathing difficulties.
Ms Clarkson eventually saw a GP after arguing with a nurse practitioner at the practice who had called her back to “challenge” her request.
The doctor immediately referred Megan to the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy where an X-ray showed a “white out” lung, often a sign of pneumonia.
Megan was taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh the next day on 12 December last year where a scan showed she had type three Pleuropulmonary Blastoma – a rare and aggressive form of lung cancer found in children.
She was operated on and had her whole right lung removed, but suffered a major bleed and cardiac arrest. She died at nine minutes past midnight on 2 January – just three weeks after being diagnosed.
Ms Clarkson is not seeking any financial redress and has not involved the health ombudsman but is seeking an apology from her medical practice in Kirkcaldy and wants staff to learn from their mistakes.
She said: “Megan was getting progressively worse – I told the nurse but even when I said that I still had to argue over and over.
“I make the point in my complaint letter that they wanted to have a telephone consultation about a two-year-old girl with breathing difficulties.
“Why did they not just say – ‘OK let’s get you in to see a doctor?’
“Instead, I had to argue my case, I had to turn into a horrible person and I came off the phone shaking.
“When I went into the doctor’s surgery I felt apprehensive.”
Ms Clarkson has met NHS Fife and her local MSP David Torrance, who has written to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on her behalf.
She added: “Looking back I just think – why did I have to see so many people before I saw a doctor about a two-year-old girl with breathing difficulties?
“I understand nurse practitioners are trained but sometimes for a bit of reassurance as a parent it would be good to see a GP.
“I felt judged because I work – you’re having to phone in every day for these appointments at 8:30am and it takes forever to get through – you can be phoning 40 to 50 times just to get to see a doctor or to get an emergency appointment.
“You eventually get through to a receptionist, who takes down the details but they pass it on to a triage nurse and my heart sinks when I hear that.
“Then the nurse phoned and on that day I was adamant that I wanted to see a doctor as things had been going on long enough with my daughter.
“They don’t take young people in these situations seriously and they don’t take anything that is not the most obvious answer seriously”. NHS Fife Medical Director, Dr Christopher Mckenna, said: “I understand that Mrs Clarkson has submitted a formal letter of complaint to her GP surgery in relation to various aspects of Megan’s care.
“GPs operate as independent contractors to the NHS and the surgery will respond to her directly in due course.”