Grieving parents call for medical review

The parents of a “loving” daughter who died from an undiagnosed brain tumour after complaining of severe headaches to her GP for 11 months have called for a review of medical procedures.

The parents of a “loving” daughter who died from an undiagnosed brain tumour after complaining of severe headaches to her GP for 11 months have called for a review of medical procedures.

An inquest in Norwich heard how Jennifer Bell had been referred for an MRI scan after almost a year of feeling unwell, but died in July 2006 while still on the waiting list.

Following the hearing, her parents Colin and Joyce Bell, questioned why her case had been referred as “relatively urgent” by medical experts meaning she faced a 13-week wait for a scan after being referred to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The 22-year-old, of Broadland Drive, Thorpe End, first complained of feeling unwell in August 2005 when she started to suffer severe headaches, nausea and a stiff neck.

The problems were so bad she was forced to give up her job as a passenger service agent at Norwich airport.

However, upon consulting her GP, Dr Helene Barclay, of Thorpe Medical Group, the symptoms were recorded as stress-related.

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After eight months of sickness she was eventually referred for a “relatively urgent” MRI scan because her periods had stopped, which was inconsistent with the diagnosis of a migraine, but she died on July 3, 2006, three days before the scheduled appointment.

At the inquest, Dr Barclay defended her decision to prescribe painkillers and physiotherapy for Miss Bell's stiff neck and said: “She did not show any sensory symptoms and I feel the routine referral to the N&N was appropriate.”

After giving a narrative verdict, Coroner William Armstrong said: “The expression 'relatively urgent' is inherently ambiguous and the hospital might consider whether its use is helpful or appropriate and perhaps use routine or urgent.

“There is no doubt that the tumour caused her death, but it is also quite clear that early detection would have resulted in medical intervention of some kind.”

Mr and Mrs Bell said in a statement: “Jennifer's family hope that lessons have been learned from the tragic circumstances of her death following a lengthy period of ill health and that, where appropriate, medical procedures will be reviewed and, if necessary, changes made.”

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