Royal Stoke cancels mum’s cancer op as Covid cases rise and pinged staff isolate


A young mum hit by delays in getting her skin cancer diagnosed has now had her operation cancelled.

Zowie Smith should have undergone a procedure at the Royal Stoke University Hospital earlier this week, but received a call to say it could not go ahead.

It comes after the 34-year-old waited more than two months to be told she had cancer after having a mole removed.

Read more: Stoke-on-Trent’s Covid infection rate reaches all-time high

The University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust says an increase in Covid-19 patients being admitted and more staff being told to self-isolate means some operations have had to be cancelled.

Zowie was initially referred to a consultant at Stafford’s County Hospital after going to her GP with concerns about the suspicious mole.

She said: “I was told it was nothing to worry about. I wanted it removing anyway, and had it removed at the end of April.

“I was told I would receive a letter within eight weeks. I didn’t receive one so I chased it up but I couldn’t get through to anyone.

“I then received a letter asking me to go to see the consultant on July 9. I was really concerned, and I was then offered an appointment on July 1. I was then told it was a malignant melanoma.”

Zowie – who is engaged to partner Daniel and has two children Kye, aged eight, and three-year-old Koby – was told she needed surgery to have the surrounding tissue removed and a sentinel node biopsy, to determine whether the cancer had spread into her lymphatic system.

She said: “I was initially told it would be within eight weeks. Then I went to see a different consultant who said it would be 18 weeks. It should be done within 31 days of diagnosis.

“Again I complained and they offered me an appointment for Monday, July 19. At 2.30pm on Friday, July 16 they called me to cancel the surgery and said they did not have any anaesthetists available for two weeks.”

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Although full-time mum Zowie has been offered another date on August 2, she is concerned the situation may be the same then and the operation cancelled again.

She added: “We are already weeks over when my treatment should have been given to me. I was told they have a lot of patients who are behind on their treatment and they couldn’t guarantee my next appointment wouldn’t be cancelled.

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“I’m really concerned that it will be and if it is in my lymph nodes it could be spreading everywhere.

“You should get the results from a sentinel node biopsy in one to two weeks but they said because of Covid it might take 10 weeks to get the result back to me.

“Not knowing what’s going to happen is making me so anxious. I feel like everything is out of my control and there’s nothing I can do about it.”



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Zowie has contacted the trust’s Patients Advice and Liaison Services and the Care Quality Commission about the delays in her care.

UHNM chief operating officer Paul Bytheway says the delays are down to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

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He said: “Unfortunately we have seen an increase in the number of patients we are treating with Covid-19 and the number of staff who have been asked to self-isolate following contact tracing has also increased which has meant we have had to make the difficult decision to postpone some operations and procedures.

“Prior to any cancellation, there is a rigorous clinical process to agree the postponement with the clinical team and we would like to apologise to patients if they have experienced a delay in their treatment. We will contact them with a new date in the days ahead.”





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