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Woman wins £2m over smear test cancer blunders

A woman who said health board staff’s blunders led her to contracting cervical cancer has won more than £2m in damages.

Judge Lord Tyre had previously supported claims by Helen McGlone, now 32, that Greater Glasgow Health Board’s smear tests should have revealed the developing tumour earlier, avoiding the need for a hysterectomy.

She raised a civil action against the board, blaming it for "misinterpretation and misreporting" of the two tests and claiming negligence had caused loss, injury and damage. The board admitted fault but contested the size of the claim.

After completing her studies at Glasgow University with first class honours in physics and applied mathematics, Ms McGlone went to do research at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Switzerland.

She said her qualifications and research would have enabled her to work in the banking industry and she had intended to seek a job with an investment bank or other large financial organisation, earning a substantial salary and big bonuses.

But the radical hysterectomy she underwent in May 2008 left her physically incapable of working and she had to take six months’ leave of absence.

She is now considering re-training and studying for a degree which will enable her to work with children's charities.

Ms McGlone, who lives in the Falkirk area, had sued the board for £5m, but in a judgment issued today, a second judge, Lord Bannatyne, restricted the provisional award to £2m. The Court of Session has still to hear Ms McGlone's argument for a further payout to cover the cost of fertility treatment and her wish to have a surrogate baby.

Her smear tests were done at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Sandyford Clinic in 2005/6. The first did not work properly and the second test was initially reported as “negative” but an audit later decided the test was “inadequate” rather than negative and a repeat test was recommended. Ms McGlone’s legal team say the result should have been seen as “abnormal”, which would have cleared the way for further investigations. The following March, another test was said to be negative. Her lawyers said it should have been labelled “positive” and followed up by urgent treatment.

After today’s ruling, they issued a statement. Stephen Hay, head of litigation at Gildeas Solicitors in Glasgow, said: “Helen McGlone (completed) almost a decade of studies, including a first class masters degree, (and) was expected to have a long and successful career in investment banking. A few months before she was due to complete her PhD however, her world fell apart.

"On three occasions, screeners and a consultant had failed to identify easily recognisable pre-cancerous cells, the very cells the screening programme is designed to detect. By the time her cancer was discovered, she needed radical surgery and intensive treatment in an attempt to save her life. Even after treatment, Dr McGlone was given only a slightly better than half chance of survival.

“We are astonished by this decision issued today, based on the witnesses who gave evidence in this lengthy case and we are considering an appeal.

“Dr McGlone is a young woman of integrity and kindness who has pursued this very difficult litigation through concern for other young women. Since her case has become public, other women have come forward and there are now multiple further confirmed instances of negligence, ranging from the timescale of 2001 to at least 2008. These involved both screeners and consultants and spanned several hospitals.”

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