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Stuart Barton angry as three appointments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cancelled at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford

A pensioner with a life-threatening lung disease has had THREE hospital appointments cancelled, one of which was not rescheduled until 10 months later.

Stuart Barton, 76, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition where the airways narrow leading to breathlessness, a persistent cough with phlegm and frequent chest infections.

Yet despite the seriousness of the condition three of his appointments with a consultant in respiratory medicine at Ashford’s William Harvey Hospital were cancelled in less than two years with reasons for the cancellations including staff being on annual leave and having to attend a meeting and a funeral in India.

Stuart Barton

In addition, he was not given any appointments for almost two years, between summer 2010 and spring 2012.

The retired photographer, who lives in Godinton Road, has seen the consultant twice since 2012 but is still awaiting test results to determine how developed his COPD is and what treatment he needs.

He said: “I have been very angry about this. This is not the way to run a hospital.

“They have treated it like it’s just a simple administrative cock-up and not something that could seriously affect a human being.

“My main concern is for my wife Dee who has been saying I’m going downhill. If we go out somewhere I can’t keep up. She has to wait while I sit down for a bit because I get out of breath so easily.

The William Harvey Hospital Ashford is currently the main focus for A&E care, along with the QEQM in Margate.

“These appointments are supposed to be determining how much I’ve deteriorated over the last four years. COPD is a potentially life-threatening condition.

“I do feel if the system has done this to me it could also be doing it to people who aren’t complaining and who could be in a worse situation.”

The only treatment Mr Barton has been prescribed so far is pills to loosen the mucus in his lungs and help him cough it up more easily.

He was due to see the consultant today, when he hoped to receive his test results, and also has an appointment scheduled for March 31 next year.

Ashford MP Damian Green wrote to the Trust on Stuart Barton’s behalf and received a letter revealing the reasons for the cancellations.

  • Follow-up appointment on June 11, 2012 cancelled as consultant had to travel to India urgently due to a bereavement. Rebooked for July 2, 2012.
  • Follow-up appointment on May 21, 2013 cancelled due to the consultant’s registrar being on leave. Rebooked for May 6, 2014.
  • Follow-up appointment on May 6, 2014 cancelled as consultant had to attend a mandatory meeting. Rebooked for March 31, 2015.

The letter also confirmed Mr Barton did not receive any appointments to see the consultant between June 26, 2010 and March 16 2012.

After Mr Green spoke to the consultant, Mr Barton was given an “immediate appointment” on January 28 this year.

“I do feel if the system has done this to me it could also be doing it to people who aren’t complaining and who could be in a worse situation” - Stuart Barton

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust spokesman Matt Hogg said: “We are very sorry for the cancellation of some of the clinics Mr Barton was due to attend.

"This was because Mr Barton’s consultant needed to cancel due to a number of unforeseen circumstances. We wrote to Mr Barton explaining the reason and apologising.

“We also ensured he was given an urgent appointment that he was able to attend, on January 28.”

He said after Mr Barton’s problems the department has implemented a new booking system, to prevent such problems happening again.

In his letter to Damian Green, Trust chief executive Stuart Bain, said: “This looks to be an unfortunate administrative error, for which we would like to sincerely apologise.”

Ashford MP Damian Green

Mr Bain said the consultant had taken several measures to ensure her patients’ future appointments were not cancelled, including creating lists of patients booked into respiratory clinics and giving out her email address and phone number.

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