Doctors in Tayside were physically threatened following the publication of a report into breast cancer services they repeatedly warned was “deeply flawed” and would cause public alarm.
Healthcare Improvement Services (HIS) published their review of care at NHS Tayside following the revelation nearly 200 patients were given lower than standard doses of chemotherapy between December 2016 and March this year.
The Courier revealed earlier this week a leaked “right of reply” to the report, drafted by the health board’s oncology team, railed against its central findings and branded the document “factually inaccurate”.
It has since emerged the doctors’ concerns were raised as early as January, both in a direct meeting and subsequent phone call with chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood and with HIS directly.
Despite the fears being passed on by both Dr Calderwood and chief pharmaceutical officer Rose Marie Parr, with the expectation these would be fully considered, the oncology team believe their detailed feedback was “ignored” by HIS bosses.
A source said: “When Dr Calderwood was shown the evidence and understood the situation, the injustice became evident.
“Subsequently patients and their families joined in the attack, with clinicians being verbally attacked and abused in consultations. In some cases physically threatened.
“It is great credit to the clinicians that they continued to work during this period… they could justify using the safer dose and the vast majority of patients accepted this.”
The Scottish Government confirmed the oncologists’ feedback was never shared with health secretary Jeane Freeman and ministers only became aware of its contents when approached for comment by The Courier on Monday.
HIS declined to say what action it took in relation to the concerns or why the full reply document was not published along with the final report, as requested by the oncologists.
A HIS spokesman said the report, which has been accepted by NHS Tayside, identified chemotherapy dosage practice for breast cancer patients “was at variance with the guidelines set out by cancer networks across various regions in Scotland”.
He said: “Such guidelines exist to ensure patients receive the most consistent and best possible experience of cancer treatment across the region.
“Crucially, patients were not told of this variance. It is imperative that patients are able to make informed decisions about their care.”
The Scottish Government said the HIS report received inputs from experts locally and nationally, “including the chief medical officer and chief pharmaceutical officer directly reporting to HIS concerns that had been raised by local oncologists early this year”.
A spokeswoman added: “The process by which HIS conducted this review was independent of Scottish Government, although we are clear in our expectation that they will consider all the feedback they receive as they reach their conclusions.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was challenged by Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith on Thursday over the “shocking treatment” of the oncology team and a lack of clear answers for patients and families.
Ms Sturgeon said it was “vital” guidance is followed by doctors in Tayside and insisted assurances have already been provided to patients.