Ipswich Hospital doctor failed to spot breast cancer case from scans
A radiologist who was allowed to continue working at Ipswich Hospital despite being embroiled in a breast cancer scandal has failed to spot signs of the disease in another woman.
Dr Kong Fa Lan Keng Lun, known as Dr Bill Lan, was found by the General Medical Council (GMC) to have deficiencies in his care of women while working at Epping Hospital. A total of 6,000 scans had to be reviewed in 2005.
And now it has emerged he failed to properly treat another patient at Ipswich Hospital in 2012.
The GMC, which originally placed conditions on Dr Lan’s registration after the Epping scandal, has examined the more recent case but decided to take no further action despite an independent radiology expert appointed by the GMC saying Dr Lan’s care fell seriously below the standard expected.
In the most recent case, the 46-year-old woman from Suffolk, who wants to remain anonymous, attended Ipswich Hospital in June 2012 and September 2013 after being referred by her GP for six months of pain in her right breast and nipple discharge – both symptoms of breast cancer.
A mammogram and ultrasound were performed but Dr Lan concluded there was no abnormality in either breast suggesting cancer.
He said a small mass was most likely a small lymph node and did not order follow-up tests.
Fourteen months later, the woman was urgently re-referred to the hospital by the same GP with the same symptoms and extreme pain.
She had another mammogram and ultrasound performed by Dr Lan, who then requested a biopsy which revealed the woman had breast cancer.
Fearing time was running out, the patient went to a private hospital and paid for a double mastectomy.
She said: “Every day is agony and I’ve been left with terrible health problems. It makes me so angry to think that I could have died because this cancer wasn’t treated for 14 months after I was first seen by Dr Lan.
“But what makes matters worse is that he has failed patients before and been allowed to come back and carry on treating women.”
The woman is suing Ipswich Hospital, claiming the 14-month delay in getting an accurate diagnosis caused serious health complications and has shortened her life expectancy.
The trust has admitted that during the initial consultation in June 2012, when Dr Lan identified a mass, more tests should have been carried out.
It disputes the claim that the delay has reduced the woman’s lifespan.
Between October 2007 and October 2009, Dr Lan had 18 conditions placed on his registration by the GMC which found Dr Lan had acted irresponsibly, inappropriately and provided inadequate care to a patient who was then diagnosed with breast cancer.
It also said Dr Lan failed to meet the screening standards expected in the care of another eight women.
But the GMC also blamed the NHS trust for Epping, saying the unit was unsupported, understaffed and under-resourced.
In the more recent Ipswich case, an independent expert appointed by the GMC was critical of Dr Lan’s patient examinations, saying further investigations should have been carried out after the first appointment, while the second examination resulted in a failure to note several masses.
The expert also said there were significant failings in the way Dr Lan reported mammogram results. But the GMC concluded that no further action was required.
It noted that Dr Lan has decided to take flexible retirement, although he will still report on some breast screenings.
Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: “Where a doctor’s conduct falls below the standard we expect and puts patients or the public confidence at risk, we can and will take action.”
Victoria Gofton, a clinical negligence specialist from Slater and Gordon acting on behalf of the patient, said: “We believe Dr Lan’s failure to recognise the significance of the mass and order follow-up tests caused a 14-month delay in receiving treatment which she urgently needed.”
An Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman said: “The trust is aware of the ongoing investigations in this matter. As a legal claim is being pursued, the trust is unable to comment save to confirm that a response to the claim has been sent to the claimant’s solicitor. We understand that the claimant’s solicitor is investigating further.”