Nurse pursues legal action after NHS trust admits 'terrible error'

Elizabeth Dawes underwent invasive surgery on what was believed to be a cancerous tumour, only to find out four days later that she had never had breast cancer

A nurse is pursuing legal action after undergoing breast cancer surgery only to find out four days later that there had been a mix-up and she had never had the disease.

Elizabeth Dawes Elizabeth Dawes. Picture credit: Irwin Mitchell

Elizabeth Dawes was left ‘devastated’ after the procedure at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, where she worked as an oncology nurse.

She was told she had grade 3 invasive breast cancer after a right breast biopsy in July 2013.

She underwent surgery to remove what was believed to be a cancerous tumour as well as lymph nodes from her armpit and a procedure to improve the shape of her breasts.

Hospital staff told her later that her medical notes and those of two other patients were mixed up.

Ms Dawes told Nursing Standard: ‘In an everyday nursing role, you have to be so careful and check so many details before you do anything, so you cannot understand that something so big could happen, such a major mistake.’

She has since left her job at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and now works in a nursing home.

The decision to leave was ‘entirely’ due to her traumatic experience, according to Ms Dawes, because it affected the care she could provide.

‘If I was in a breast consultation with a patient, my mind would go back to the consultations I had,' she said.

‘Obviously the patients need you there as their advocate and support and I could not provide that because my mind would be elsewhere.’

The trust has carried out an investigation and apologised to Ms Dawes for its ‘terrible error’.

A trust spokesman said: ‘The incident is now part of an ongoing legal claim with which the trust is co-operating fully.

‘The trust can confirm that no other patient received inappropriate treatment as a result of this incident.’

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