A DEVASTATED son whose father died days after being diagnosed with lung cancer said he had been repeatedly “fobbed off” despite pleas that people should still go to the NHS with symptoms.

Stuart Cameron said his 78-year-old father, also called Stuart, was misdiagnosed with acid reflux and a chest infection in the weeks before his death on April 22.

Despite his father having previously survived cancer after having 40 per cent of his lung removed a few years ago, Mr Cameron said symptoms including rapid weight loss, lethargy and nighttime coughing fits were dismissed until it was too late.

READ MORE: Third of cancer surgeons have stopped operating due to Covid 

Mr Cameron said the family repeatedly contacted his father’s GP surgery, Old Kilpatrick Medical Practice in Clydebank, but were told he could not come into the practice and they would not send a doctor out due to fears over Covid-19 infection.

HeraldScotland:

He said they had to fight and even threaten legal action just to get him admitted to hospital in March and April but said no cancer checks were carried out until a CT scan on April 16.

The following day, Mr Camerons Sr, a grandfather and married father-of-five, was diagnosed with lung cancer and told he had just weeks to live.

He collapsed and died last Wednesday at his son’s home in Glasgow after suffering a heart attack, thought to have been brought on by the strain of the cancer which had spread into his chest.

Mr Cameron, a health and safety officer, said: “My Dad passed away a year to the day that his brother Victor died of the same cancer.

"My Dad was there with his brother the whole time, went through every day with him.

“I’d sat up all night with my Dad holding his hand because he was quite frightened, and I was taking my Dad up the stairs for a shower when all of a sudden he couldn’t lift his leg.

“I said ‘are you alright Dad?’ and as I picked him up I looked at his face and saw his eyes rolling back.

"He’d obviously taken a heart attack in my arms and died while I was carrying him. I put him back in his chair and that was that.”

Mr Cameron said he is angry at public health messaging suggesting that cancer referrals are down because people are not going to their GP with symptoms during the pandemic.

READ MORE: 72% cut in urgent cancer referrals during coronavirus outbreak blamed on people not going to GPs

Last week, figures revealed a 72% drop in the number of ‘urgent referrals with a suspicion of cancer’ compared with the same period in previous years.

Separate figures also revealed that there had been 161 more cancer deaths than normal in Scotland between March 30 and April 19, with the next set of statistics due to be published tomorrow.

Mr Cameron said: “The 72% reduction that is mentioned is not due to patients frightened to come forward. They are coming forward, but are not being diagnosed as having cancer. They’re told it’s something else.

“So when I heard this doctor on the radio last week saying ‘people must come forward’, it felt like a slap in the face.

“I don’t want anyone else going through what we have, but I know that they are. One of my friends called me to say ‘sorry to hear about your Dad’.

"His Dad’s going through exactly the same thing. He’s not getting treatment, not getting biopsied, and he’s getting worse. That’s exactly what happened to my Dad.”

The Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh warned on Friday that a survey of their membership found that one third of cancer surgeons had stopped operating completely over fears that patients would be at high risk of fatal coronavirus complications if treated in hospitals where Covid-19 patients were present.

Across the UK, treatments such as chemotherapy have also been put on hold for some cancer patients, due to the risk of coronavirus in the immuno-suppressed.

READ MORE: Hundreds more than normal dying of cancer, strokes, heart disease and dementia

Mr Cameron Sr, who had worked in the shipbuilding industry and then as a plumber, went on to develop asbestosis - a type of scarring and inflammation of the lungs which increases the risk of lung cancer.

However, when he first developed cancer symptoms Mr Cameron said his father was told three times he did not have the disease before finally being diagnosed when he went to doctors for a fourth time to push for further tests.

The family, who plan to sue for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for medical negligence, believe opportunities to diagnose the condition were missed again after he developed a cough in September 2019.

In February, Mr Cameron Sr underwent a CT scan which the health board say showed “no evidence of malignancy”.

However, his son says there was shadowing in the lungs and swollen lymph nodes which he believes should have been seen as a red flag given his father’s medical history.

Around the same time he underwent a bronchoscopy, including a biopsy, to examine his lungs in more detail.

No cancer was detected but he was booked in for a follow-up biopsy which was ultimately cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

In March, he was admitted to hospital at the family’s request, but sent home two days later with medication for acid reflux.

Three weeks later, with his condition deteriorating, Mr Cameron Sr was readmitted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for two nights but his son says he was “sent home without being checked for cancer and given medication for the chest infection”.

On April 15, Mr Cameron contacted his father’s GP surgery amid growing alarm at his father’s condition.

“Without seeing him they said there was nothing else they could do,” said Mr Cameron. “They got his respiratory consultant at the hospital to call me and I spoke to him after he called my Dad.

“He said he thought the cancer was back, but it was too late for chemotherapy by then because he was so weak.

“My Dad had been going downhill for months. I’d said to them: ‘what is the greatest risk here - that my Dad goes into hospital and possibly catches Covid, or he stays in the house and just withers away?’.

“He was in hospital three times in March and April and never caught Covid, but I think they were just so terrified of coronavirus that it was left to us as a family to force it. They didn’t want to be blamed for sending him to hospital.

“If they’d acted quicker my Dad could still be here now. But each time he was admitted, they just monitored him and never treated him for cancer again.

“Yet all I’m hearing is that people are frightened to go to their doctor because of Covid-19."

At yesterday's daily briefing Scotland's interim chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, again urged anyone with possible cancer symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, unusual bleeding or a lump to contact their GP.

"These are things you shouldn't ignore," said Dr Smith.

A spokeswoman for NHS GGC said: "We would first of all like to convey our deepest sympathies to Mr Cameron’s family.

"We can assure them that Mr Cameron received all appropriate tests, and within appropriate timescales, given Mr Cameron’s medical history.

"Sadly, Mr Cameron’s condition deteriorated very rapidly in just a few months.

"We would be happy to discuss this further with Mr Cameron’s family if they feel this would be beneficial."

In a statement, Old Kilpatrick Medical Practice said: "Although we cannot comment regarding any patient’s specific clinical details, we do wish to express our sadness and pass on our condolences to the family.   

"During the current Covid-19 situation the practice remains open. In order to protect our patients and staff we are primarily dealing with patients’ concerns by telephone and video link.     

"However, where a patient needs to be seen, this will happen at the practice or their home.     

"The practice continues to closely adhere to guidance and advice provided by the Scottish Government and NHS GGC."