Pictured: Michelle Ditcher, 33, who died of a heart attack after being ‘fobbed off’ by doctors
A mother of two died at 33 of a heart attack after she was fobbed off by doctors who said her chest pains were a stomach ache.
Michelle Ditcher had a well-documented family history of relatives dying young due to cardiac failure but due to an admin blunder it was ‘hidden’ from the medics who treated her.
When the mother of two made desperate visits to her doctors at Ashcroft Surgery in Levenshulme, Manchester after suffering with chest pains and shortness of breath she was sent away.
They advised her to buy over-the-counter painkiller Ibuprofen and told her it was ‘gastro-intestinal’ problems.
When she was taken to A&E at Manchester Royal Infirmary she was recommended for urgent treatment, but due to an further admin blunder her GPs never received the referral.
Three months later she later collapsed at home in Levenshulme and was rushed to hospital but died shortly afterwards. Tests showed she had heart disease and severely high cholesterol.
At an inquest into her death, her husband told the coroner he believed his wife had been failed by the doctors who ‘neglected her’.
The hospital and surgery were condemned for their failings with the coroner ruling her death could have been prevented.
At an inquest into the death of Michelle Ditcher, her husband Alan (pictured together above) told the coroner he believed his wife had been failed by healthcare professionals
Three months before her death, she was rushed to A&E at Manchester Royal Infirmary she was recommended for urgent treatment, but due to an admin blunder her GP never received the referral
The hearing was told Mrs Ditcher’s father had died aged 40 from a heart attack while her brother passed away from a similar condition aged just 33.
Mrs Ditcher’s husband Alan, 43, said in the eight years he had known his wife the only significant illness she presented was asthma – but in last 18 months of her life she had been ‘backwards and forwards’ to her GP with chest pains.
He said: ‘The chest pain affected her day to day life greatly and she struggled picking our children up from school and there were times where I had to leave work early just to help her walk. We felt that this was not properly investigated by her GP and the strongest treatment she was given was Ibuprofen.
Mrs Ditcher’s husband Alan, 43, said his wife struggled to walk due to severe chest pains
‘It has been no secret that her both her brother and father had a history of heart problems. Yet every time she came home from an appointment she always had the impression that she was being fobbed off. She went there with pains to the left and right arm and her back and chest – she felt like she was constantly being bear hugged.’
Mr Ditcher described how his wife was always been sent to different GPs and felt as though her plight was being ignored.
Telling the court of her final hours, he said: ‘Two days prior to my wife passing away, I received a phone call from her saying she was unable to walk home due to her extreme chest pain and shortness of breath she was experiencing.
‘Once I got home she could barely speak and I called for an ambulance. It was advised that she needed a scan but we were told this request could only come from a GP who was on holiday for two weeks.
Every time she came home from an appointment she always had the impression that she was being fobbed off
‘When I told the paramedic this he phoned the ambulance GP to see if he could get an appointment and Michelle had a brief conversation and the referral was made. This would not have been done for weeks if we left it to Michelle’s own GP.
‘I believe the GP surgery neglected my wife and their lack of investigation has resulted in her death.’
GP Dominic Hyland who treated Miss Ditcher twice for chest pains said it was hidden in her records about her family history. :
The hearing was told Mrs Ditcher’s father had died aged 40 from a heart attack while her brother passed away from a similar condition aged just 33
He said: ‘We now make it clear that if a patient reveals a family history then that is recorded as a significant problem. Looking back with hindsight the chest pains and sensation in the mouth may have been angina. She was almost certainly describing angina and I did not consider it.
‘Clearly this was a missed opportunity to investigate and refer her to a chest pain clinic.’
I believe the GP surgery neglected my wife and their lack of investigation has resulted in her death
Dr Naveed Khanna, another GP at the Ashcroft surgery said: ‘There were opportunities to start her on statins and I wished I had started her on these when I referred her because I now know about her familial history and my main regret is not having full sight of the full clinical picture.’
A third GP Dr Alexander Frame said: ‘She said she had been experiencing pain for 18 months on a daily basis. But the absence of a history of cardiac issues, a normal ECG and her abdominal pains led me to a gastrointestinal conclusion.’
He said there were missed opportunities and the practise had failed to recognise her symptoms.
An expert cardiologist condemned Ashcroft Surgery, pictured above, and said Mrs Ditcher’s death came as the result of an ‘organisational failure’
An expert cardiologist said he thought it was likely Mrs Ditcher had a heart attack in 2013 and had been living with Coronary Artery Disease until her death in November 2014 which went undetected.
Dr Steven Saltissi said the GP surgery were unaware of her high cholesterol and history of coronary heart disease but said it was treated, she could have survived.
He condemned the actions of the practise and called it an ‘organisational failure’.
Recording a narrative conclusion, assistant coroner Nick Stanage said the surgery had come up with an ‘action plan’ to address issues following Mrs Ditcher’s death but it appeared the hospital had not investigated the tragedy.
He said: ‘Michelle was failed so many times and I fear a recurrence of preventable deaths will happen in the future as a result of failings to ensure that clinician’s instructions are clearly communicated to GP surgeries.’
He ruled the failures in her care and treatment contributed to her death.
He said: ‘There was also a failure to ensure that Michelle was referred to the rapid access chest pain clinic and there was a failure to diagnose and treat angina. But for the above failures, her death would have been prevented.’