Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Tom Freeman
05 April 2019
Treatment of 14 women who died from breast cancer at NHS Tayside to be reviewed

Ninewells Hospital, Dundee - credit Ydam

Treatment of 14 women who died from breast cancer at NHS Tayside to be reviewed

Scotland’s top cancer doctor is to review NHS Tayside after it emerged the health board had been giving breast cancer patients lower doses of chemotherapy than anywhere else in Scotland.

Dr David Dunlop, senior medical officer for cancer with the Scottish Government, has been appointed to review 14 cases where the women in question later died.

The review was recommended by NHS scrutiny body Health Improvement Scotland (HIS), which was called in after a whistleblower raised concerns over chemotherapy treatments at the health board.

HIS found oncologists in Dundee had lowered the dose from 2016, but patients hadn’t been informed. Patients should be told when informed where "routine practice is different from that supported by the wider oncology community”, it said.

NHS Tayside said the decision was an attempt to reduce side-effects, but that it will now bring the treatment in line with other health boards.

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

“These patients received breast cancer chemotherapy during the time period 1 December 2016 until 31 March 2019.

“The findings will be shared with the families.”

Gregor McNie, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Each cancer patient should have access to the best, evidence-based treatment for their condition, no matter where they live.

“It's important that health professionals and patients are given the right support to make decisions about treatment options.

“This includes having strong guidelines that can ensure treatment is consistent.”

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

Scottish Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Monica Lennon said: "The news that 14 women died after receiving lower than recommended dosages during chemotherapy treatment at NHS Tayside is deeply worrying.

"It is right that an independent expert will now investigate these deaths to give the families the answers that they need, but this should not have happened in the first place.

"The Health Secretary must ensure that all other clinical management guidelines are being met by NHS Tayside and all other health boards.

"This news comes on the back of a catalogue of failures in mental health care and many people in Tayside will now question if they can be confident with the care being provided to them."

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe



Stay in the know with our fortnightly magazine

Stay in the know with our fortnightly magazine


Popular reads
Back to top