A couple have had a cancer operation cancelled three times at Royal Preston Hospital and fear the wait is killing her

Why are we still waiting?

Derek Lewthwaite
Derek Lewthwaite

That’s the question a Blackpool husband is asking after a cancer operation for his wife was cancelled not once but THREE times by the Royal Preston Hospital.

Derek Lewthwaite says his wife Jane is fighting a battle not just with cancer but with the clock too. But he claims the hospital says a shortage of beds and theatre time have meant they have not been able to provide the potentially life saving treatment she needs.

Jane, of Faringdon Avenue, South Shore, was diagnosed with mouth cancer around two months ago and at first the problem, was not particularly visible.

Derek Lewthwaite

Derek said: “Every cancellations increases the chance of the cancer spreading. She’s got a big droop (on her face) and a lump growing in the side of her face. You can smell the death on her breath and it’s horrendous. Breath fresheners have no impact on it...that’s the poison. It’s killing her.”

Now he is appealing for hospital bosses to step in to find a solution to the problem.

Jane 64, has had three dates for her major operation. But each time the operation has been cancelled at short notice.

Husband Derek, 64, said: “Six to eight weeks ago she was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth. She was transferred to Royal Preston Hospital where we were told the only cure was an operation and reconstructive surgery - having her jaw reconstructed.“

Derek and Jane Lewthwaite in happier times

Radiotherapy was to follow the reconstruction and the couple were advised this would give her a 50 per cent chance of a cure.

The initial date for the operation was December 5, but this was cancelled as the couple were told there was no ICU (intensive care) bed available.

The next date for an operation was December 12 and Jane had been admitted, prepared and marked with blue pencil indicating where surgery is required.

By this time Jane’s morphine dose had been doubled, said Derek, as she struggled to cope with the pain.

Royal Preston Hospital

It was again cancelled as there was no ICU bed available.

Hopes were raised when the hospital contacted the couple on December 23 to say another surgeon might be available on Christmas Eve.

They said yes to the December 24 date, but again were devastated to have it cancelled due to lack of a place in the hospital’s operating theatre.

Derek said: “No theatre time was available. I was promised a telephone call between Christmas and New Year, but by 3pm on Friday, December 28, I had heard nothing from them so made some calls and was told it was being dealt with in another department.”

Now another possible operation date has been mentioned - January 14.

Derek claims: “We’ve a bunch of administrators making life and death decisions about people.

“My wife has lost a stone in weight, she can’t sleep. the pain is unimaginable. Her morphine has been doubled. Nobody will talk to me. Nobody will be helpful.”

He says he was advised to take his complaints to the hospital’s PALs team, but said: “I want to make RPH respond.”

Gerry Skailes, medical director of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We sincerely apologise to Mrs Lewthwaite for postponing her operation.

“We recognise that postponing operations causes anxiety and disruption for our patients and their families, so we work hard to ensure all scheduled procedures go ahead as planned.

“However, when there is a significant increase in the number of patients who need emergency surgery, unfortunately sometimes we need to postpone some planned procedures, particularly if a critical care bed is needed but none is available.

“We are planning to expand our critical care unit to increase capacity for the future, which should address this issue.

“We do all we can to reschedule all postponed operations as quickly as possible, and closely monitor patients involved.”