Published: 16:22, 18 November 2020
| Updated: 09:55, 19 November 2020
A hospital has apologised following the death of a man from cancer whose doctors said his symptoms were psychological and not physical.
He began experiencing symptoms in November and was given anti-reflux medication.
The Ashley Avenue, Cheriton, resident attended the hospital in January for an endoscopy, suspected of having the affliction that eventually killed him.
Daughter Kayleigh Shields notes how he was repeatedly visiting his GP because he couldn't swallow, and even drinking water was proving very difficult.
The Ashford resident recalls: "He was told he needed counselling because they said it was all in his head.
"They did it but failed to biopsy his oesophagus - it was due to be completed six weeks later but the appointment never materialised.
According to Mrs Shields, The East Kent Hospitals Trust admitted yesterday that this was due to a clerical error.
In a statement, Dr Rebecca Martin, chief medical officer at East Kent Hospitals, said: “We offer our heartfelt condolences to Mr Couchman's family on their loss and we are sorry that we did not give him the standard of care they would want and expect.
“We are working closely with Mr Couchman’s family and are investigating Mr Couchman's care so that any lessons that can be learned are.”
Mr Couchman had been taken off the cancer pathway after the emergency endoscopy in January.
He was given anti-depressants, which he was choking on.
Mrs Shields said: "On February 11, he went to hospital because his food was stuck, he'd choked and he was blue. An ambulance came, he stayed in A&E for a night.
"Someone came round and said: 'I've got three words for you. Chew your food.' My dad was thinking it was all in his head."
The concerned daughter then rang the GP, and the staff member allegedly said: "I think it's just a bad case of an eating disorder, they've done the endoscopy and would've picked up on it."
From January to May, Mrs Shields made numerous calls to the GP but no one visited despite her dad losing four stone in that time.
It was only in late May, when she said he looked as though he might die that a visit was made.
It later transpired he was in stage four of oesophageal cancer, with Mr Couchman dying from the illness on August 24.
An officially-desginated "serious investigation" prompted by Mrs Shields - who pushed her wedding forward so that her dad could be there - lasted 150 days.
"I'm heartbroken and they robbed me of valuable time..."
Yesterday, she had a meeting with the East Kent Hospitals Trust where they admitted multiple failings ahead of the death.
She notes: "Both of the leading endoscopologists said that the images showed dad needed a biopsy.
"I was initially told half the required endoscopy images weren't captured, but I've since been told all the necessary images were made.
"It appeared inflamed and bulky, which does signal cancer and would require biopsy.
"The consultant whose name was on the letter didn't do it, it was someone from an agency."
"This has killed my dad - it's such an aggressive cancer and to leave him with it untreated for so long is incredibly unfair."
"It's absolutely disgusting. My dad was my best friend and it's so hard to hear that in January if they'd done their jobs properly we could've had a different outcome. Even if it wasn't a different result, they could've helped him through those months.
"This is my dad's life. When you go to the hospital you put your trust in these people.
"We went to A&E three times and they just told me it was an oesophageal spasm, then a suspected bowel obstruction and the third time anxiety.
"People should be aware that if you go to hospital, you should carry on fighting for what you think is truly happening.
"I'm heartbroken and they robbed me of valuable time, and also him."
On November 29, the day before what would have been Wilfred's 60th birthday, Kayleigh and mum Julie will be raising money for the Pilgrims Hospice.
Walking from her house in Willesborough to his home in Folkestone, she'll be pushing her mum in a wheelchair along the way.
Kayleigh said: "I really want to support them, because they were the only ones who really cared for him along the way."