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Health board apologises over ovary removal operation however patient C's complaint against NHS Highland has not been upheld

By Louise Glen

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NHS Highland logo.
NHS Highland logo.

A complaint made about an ovary a patient said was removed without their consent has not been upheld against NHS Highland – though the way in which it investigated the matter has been ruled to have fallen below the standard expected.

In a complex case, a woman complained to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) that her ovary had been removed despite her express wish it should not be.

Referred to as “C” in the recently published ombudsman’s report, to protect her anonymity, she also complained that pain medication had been withheld and that the handling of her complaint by the health board had been inadequate.

The SPSO in its report said: “C underwent surgery for removal of a complex cyst on their right ovary.

“C complained that during the surgical procedure the board unreasonably removed their left ovary despite their express wishes it should be retained.

“They said that in the absence of a fully informed pre-surgical consultation, the board had not understood their surgical choices and had unreasonably prepared them for surgery.

“We found that the surgical procedure performed was in line with the recommendations of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) and that the board had acted on what they believed were C’s express instructions and for which written consent had been obtained.

“As such, we did not uphold this part of the complaint.”

However, the report continued: “We found that despite reasonable attempts to include C in the pre-surgical decision-making and consent process, the board had failed to clarify with C their understanding of the proposed surgical plan and the circumstances in which C’s left ovary was to be removed.

“We also found that the board had not telephoned C following the MDT team meeting as had been agreed, and some of the pre-surgical discussions that had taken place between the parties were brief or had not been documented in the clinical records.

“Therefore, on balance, we upheld this part of the complaint.”

The report added: “We found that the board’s complaint handling in this case was poor.

“There was a failure by the board to update C on the progress of the investigation and there were delays in a number of their responses.

“The board’s final response contained a number of factual inaccuracies and it had not adequately addressed all of C’s concerns.

“As such, we upheld this part of the complaint.”

NHS Highland has apologised to C for its failings.

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