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NHS doctors give cancer-stricken pensioner the all clear

PUBLISHED: 13:33 02 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:17 07 September 2010

Valerie Walmsley-Hunter, suffering fron cancer

Pictures by Jonathan Goldberg

Valerie Walmsley-Hunter, suffering fron cancer Pictures by Jonathan Goldberg

Jonathan Goldberg 07958 229 037

Tan Parsons A PENSIONER has branded medical care at the Royal Free Hospital as negligent after being given the all-clear when she had stomach cancer growing inside her. Valerie Walmsley-Hunter, 75, became concerned when she lost two stone in weight in j

Tan Parsons

A PENSIONER has branded medical care at the Royal Free Hospital as 'negligent' after being given the all-clear when she had stomach cancer growing inside her.

Valerie Walmsley-Hunter, 75, became concerned when she lost two stone in weight in just 18 months, and could not keep her food down.

She was told by a consultant at the Royal Free there was "nothing sinister" and that she was probably anorexic.

Still concerned, she paid to see a private doctor at the Royal Marsden Hospital in South West London and was told she had a stomach tumour.

"The fact I had lost so much weight should have been a cause for concern," said Mrs Walmsley-Hunter, of Hampstead Hill Gardens.

"But after the tests they said, 'Good news - it's nothing sinister'. One doctor tried to suggest I was anorexic. I'm not. It's all due to negligence. You are just rushed through on a conveyor belt. With all those tests you were just pushed through as quickly as possible.

"There was a general lack of efficiency and half the time they couldn't find your file. It wasn't a nice experience. Imagine being told you're anorexic. Without being overdramatic - they've probably shortened my life."

She had a series of tests at the hospital including an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, a CT scan and X-rays, but the results were inconclusive.

Six weeks ago she was told by a private consultant that had the cancer been detected earlier, she could have had her stomach removed and would not have needed to have chemotherapy. The pensioner, who volunteers at the Royal Free's AIDS department, does not feel the care she received is representative of the whole hospital, although she says that in her case it was simply not up to standard.

Her story follows a report released last week by the North West Cancer Intelligence Service claiming at least 15,000 older cancer patients die prematurely in the UK each year. Experts said this is probably down to factors including going to the doctor late, and delayed diagnosis and treatment.

Mrs Walmsley-Hunter ran her own children's bookshop for 10 years, but since she started her course of chemotherapy she has been largely housebound.

"I was very active - I didn't feel like I was in my 70s at all but I do now," she said.

She is the mother of artist and writer Sebastian Horsley, and was married to the late Nicholas Horsley, the founder of the food manufacturer Northern Foods.

A spokesman for the Royal Free Hospital said they were unable to comment on individual cases. He added: "We would like to offer our sympathy and sincere best wishes to Mrs Walmsley-Hunter and her family.


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