Advising with empathy and experience

Review of Tayside chemotherapy.

An independent review is being carried out into chemotherapy given to 14 women who died after NHS Tayside gave lower doses than other Scottish health boards.

The health board requested the review after it was criticised in a report by Health Improvement Scotland (HIS).

A senior medical officer for cancer with the Scottish Government, Dr David Dunlop, is carrying out the review.

NHS Tayside said dosages were lowered to reduce side effects.  The trust added that the risks to the 304 breast cancer patients involved were very small and it is was now bringing treatment into line with the rest of the country.

A further expert group, led by professor Aileen Keel of the Scottish Cancer Taskforce, is to "fully consider all of the report's individual recommendations and how they can be best delivered.”

A spokesman for NHS Tayside said: "As part of our response to the HIS report, NHS Tayside has asked an independent expert to review the breast cancer chemotherapy treatment of 14 patients who have died.

"These patients received breast cancer chemotherapy between 1 December 2016 and 31 March 2019. The findings will be shared with the families."

One patient, Lee Dennis, started breast cancer treatment almost two years ago. She said: "The first notion that I had that my treatment was different was when I was told by letter.

"It stated that from December 2016 until the 31 March this year, my particular regiment of chemotherapy had being knowingly under-dosed, outside national guidelines.

"I had to read the letter twice when I first opened it because I was not really sure what I was reading.

"As it settled into my head, I felt a lot of things - a rush of anxiety, a flurry of questions and I incoherently babbled to my husband that he needed to read this letter and explain to me what I was taking in."

HIS was called in after a whistleblower raised concerns about chemotherapy treatment in NHS Tayside.

The watchdog found that from December 2016 onwards, the dosage of docetaxel, given to breast cancer patients, was lower than in any other Scottish health board area. It also found that patients were not told their treatment was different.

According to the report, the health board perceived that the higher dosage "is not well tolerated" by patients.

An NHS Tayside audit found "unacceptable rates of neutropenic sepsis", a life-threatening complication of cancer treatment, the report said.

HIS recommended that the health board should keep patients informed where "routine practice is different from that supported by the wider oncology community.”

Patients who are affected are being offered an appointment with an oncologist to discuss their treatment.

An HIS spokesman said: "The report makes a number of recommendations to support the future management of breast cancer in North of Scotland Cancer Network (NOSCAN) and NHS Tayside."