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Ex-NHS worker, 92, misdiagnosed with organ failure by GP video call

Remote-working GP ‘wrongly told patient she was dying of organ failure on video call because he thought her skin appeared yellow on screen’

  • Doctor made the devastating diagnosis without seeing his patient in person
  • Her son has raised a complaint with the Care Quality Commission over treatment
  • A subsequent medical examination found she did not in fact have liver failure 
  • The woman was given antibiotics for a possible infection and has now recovered 

A 92-year-old former NHS worker with dementia was told she needed end-of-life care after a doctor mistakenly diagnosed liver failure after spotting her ‘skin was yellow’ during a video appointment. 

In fact the former district nurse was shown to have no liver abnormalities, but a possible gallbladder infection and she has since made a full recovery.

Her son, Michael Gough Cooper, from Chiltington, West Sussex, has now raised a complaint with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) about how the GP was able to make such a devastating diagnosis about his mother without ever having examined her in person, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

The concerning incident, which happened in March, began when carers at the woman’s Isle of Wight care home noticed she had lost her appetite after recovering from Covid. 

A GP at Cowes Medical Centre (pictured) misdiagnosed liver failure in a 92-year-old woman with dementia after spotting her ‘skin was yellow’ during a video appointment

When they contacted Cowes Medical Centre for an appointment, they were allegedly informed the GP would only review the woman via video call, rather than in-person. 

After he was told of the diagnosis, a ‘shocked’ Mr Gough Cooper asked the doctor to explain the assessment.

A different doctor at the practice spoke to him while reviewing notes from the video appointment, adding that an in-person consultation was not possible because of his mother’s Covid diagnosis.

He was advised to seek out a second opinion by taking his mother to A&E, which resulted in her having to wait hours and eventually stay overnight because of long delays in the emergency department, Mr Gough Cooper explained.

While an ultrasound revealed no liver abnormalities, staff decided to prescribe antibiotics given her history of gallbladder infection.

The woman was later taken to A&E to receive a second opinion on her condition (file picture)

She stayed four nights in hospital and has since made a full recovery.

Mr Gough Cooper said: ‘I feel that had we not had the second diagnosis, she would have been left to languish in the home and her condition would have deteriorated.

‘The doctor made a misdiagnosis, which you can sort of understand, but the fact that he or anybody in the practice was unprepared to go and see her, I thought [that] was surprising.

Cowes Medical Practice said GPs do carry out in-person appointments when needed.

Doctors at A&E found the woman did not have liver failure, but treated her with antibiotics for a possible gallbladder infection given her medical history (file picture)

A senior GP for the practice said it was ‘sorry” to hear about the family’s experience and offered to discuss the matter further with them.

They added: ‘For our patients who are residents in care homes, we are in regular contact with the home throughout the week and always support patients if the care home raises a concern relating to their health.’

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