Doctor who missed cancer signs allowed to continue working

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A father expressed dismay today after a GP who failed to spot symptoms of cervical cancer in his daughter escaped being struck off the medical register.

Nicola Sams, 26, complained of abdominal pain and irregular bleeding over five years but her GP never conducted an internal examination and Miss Sams died after the disease spread.



Dr Navin Shankar was today permitted to continue working as a doctor subject to conditions for 18 months - despite a ruling that he fell "seriously short" of expected standards.



At an earlier hearing, the General Medical Council (GMC) said Dr Shankar's misconduct put patient safety at risk and found his fitness to practise was impaired.



Miss Sams' father Mike said relatives were horrified he might now return to work.



"We're very very shocked at this news that he's still potentially able to practise maybe a couple of years down the line," he told ITV News.



"Having been with Nikki until the end of her tender life was very traumatic and I dread to think if anybody had to go what I went through.



"It's something I think about daily but it's absolutely diabolical."



The panel heard how Miss Sams - identified during the GMC hearing as Patient A - consulted Dr Shankar "on a number of occasions" between November 1999 and November 2005 with symptoms which warranted an internal examination.



But this was never carried out and by the time doctors realised her cancer had spread, it was too late.



Recalling Miss Sams' illness, her sister Joanne said: "With Nikki's condition internally she was obviously very poorly but externally she didn't look ill at all.



"If you'd have actually seen her you wouldn't have thought anything was wrong with her.



"She actually slowly deteriorated after the tumour was removed and then we found that the cancer had spread everywhere," she told ITV News.



The panel found Dr Shankar, from Luton, Bedfordshire, failed to record all of Miss Sams' complaints or keep adequate records of her visits to his surgery while she was a patient.



The GP, who qualified in 1974, also changed her oral contraceptive pill without noting a reason.



An assessment conducted in May found the doctor - who was suspended in 2005 over his treatment of a newborn baby - was "not fit to practise independently" and showed his professional performance was "deficient".



But today the GMC panel said: "In all the circumstances, the panel is satisfied that patient safety and the public interest can be protected by imposing a period of conditional registration."



The stipulations placed on his employment are similar to those imposed on trainees and require him to be closely supervised.



He has been forbidden from working as a locum or undertaking any out-of-hours work or on-call duties.



Dr Shankar, who worked at the Wigmore Lane Health Centre in Luton, was found guilty of serious professional misconduct after examining a nine-day-old baby in September 2003.



He sent the infant home - despite the fact that the little boy's right foot was dark blue and cold to the touch - telling his mother: "I have seen something like this before; his nappy is too tight."



The baby was later admitted to the Luton and Dunstable Hospital where he was found to have lost about 30% of his birth weight and diagnosed with hypernatremic dehydration - a potentially fatal brain condition.

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