A COMPLAINT has been upheld against NHS Fife relating to the care of a woman who died from liver cancer in Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline.

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman carried out an investigation into the health care history of the patient.

The complainant (Miss C) was unhappy about the treatment provided to her cousin (Miss A) before she died from liver cancer on 28th June 2010.

NHS Fife (referred to in the report as 'the practice') had carried out a large number of liver function tests on Miss A from May 2004 onwards.

These showed her GGT (a liver enzyme) levels were high. Miss C complained about the lack of action taken by the practice in response to the raised GGT levels.

The complaint that the practice failed or delayed in acting on Miss A's abnormal test results was upheld.

The ombudsman recommended that the practice writes to Miss C to apologise for the failure to investigate the results and takes steps to ensure that in future investigations will take place where a patient has a persistently high GGT level to try to establish the cause.

The practice has accepted the recommendations and will act on them accordingly.

Miss A was admitted to Queen Margaret Hospital on 21st June 2010 and died from liver cancer a week later.

Miss C and another family member wrote to the practice in October 2010 to complain about their failure to take action in relation to the raised GGT levels in Miss A's liver function test results.

The ombudsman concluded, "The medical records show that Miss A's GGT levels were raised from 2004 onwards. No investigations were carried out to establish the reason for the persistently raised GGT results.

"I consider that it was reasonable for the practice to simply monitor the results in 2004/05, particularly as the GGT levels were decreasing during that time.

"However, the GGT levels started to rise again in 2006. In October 2006, the GGT level was 322, around ten times the higher end of the normal range.

"I consider that the practice should have taken action to try to establish the cause of this at that time.

"They should have considered if there was a viral cause (for example, hepatitis) and made a referral for an ultrasound scan. I should make it clear, however, that it is not possible to say whether Miss A had liver cancer in 2006/07 or to establish what the outcome would have been if the practice had carried out further investigations at that time."