A GP surgery has vowed to take a more cautious approach with potential cancer patients following the death of a woman who suffered delays in her diagnosis. 

Linda Spencer died of a form of bowel cancer last year at the age of 70, seven months after being diagnosed.

However, an inquest into her death heard that opportunities to catch the disease sooner were missed by Watton Medical Practice while the surgery was investigating her symptoms.

The court heard Mrs Spencer had first visited the practice in February 2022, complaining of upper abdominal pain, acid reflux and tiredness.

Tests over the coming months revealed her to have iron deficiency anaemia, which is a common symptom in colorectal cancers. 

However, due to her pain being located in her upper abdomen rather than the lower, the practice did not opt to carry out stool tests which may have identified the need to refer her for cancer services.

Investigations at this stage, including an endoscopy, did reveal her to have gastritis, which was initially believed to be the cause of her pain.

But it was not until her symptoms worsened that an urgent referral was made to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and in October that she received a diagnosis.

Giving evidence to the court, Dr Oluwatosin Taiwo, a partner in the surgery, said that the practice was now taking a "more cautious approach" and that a future patient with Mrs Spencer's conditions would be referred sooner.

Jacqueline Lake, senior coroner for Norfolk, concluded that Mrs Spencer had died of natural causes on May 28, 2023.

She said: "I have heard that doctors in the surgery are taking a more cautious approach regarding the diagnosis of cancer and if pain is described as in the upper abdomen, it will provide faecal immunochemical tests."