A woman who spent 17 years in agony after bungling doctors misdiagnosed endometriosis as irritable bowel syndrome has won a £500,000 payout.
Frances Bell first attended a gynaecology appointment in 1997 after suffering pain when she was 14 years old.
She was told she had irritable bowel syndrome despite having the tell-tale symptoms of endometriosis including cramping and pain when she went to the toilet.
Over the years Frances, now 37, made repeated visits to doctors and even researched her own symptoms and suspected she had endometriosis.
During a gynaecology assessment in 2001 an 18-year-old Frances told medics of her concerns but they dismissed her fears and refused to refer her for more tests.
She continued to experience pain and, in 2014, after she had stopped taking contraception to prepare to try for a baby, the pain became so severe that she attended A&E.
She was then referred for further assessments and underwent keyhole exploratory surgery, a laparoscopy, in 2015.
She was finally diagnosed with endometriosis when she was 31 but due to the delay in treating the disease it had reached Grade 4, meaning she was unable to conceive naturally.
Frances was forced to give up her job as a primary school teacher due to the disease
having spread around her ovary and bowel.
Despite the pain, she underwent IVF and she and biochemist husband Jon, 35, had baby Harry in 2018.
Frances still faces years of pain and was told she would need a hysterectomy and bowel resection in the future.
She recruited Leigh Day medical negligence solicitors and sued Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
The Trust admitted that a laparoscopy should have been performed in 2001 and that the diagnosis of endometriosis would then have been reached.
Last week Frances received £500,000 in an out of court settlement from the Trust.
She said she now hoped other women who were suffering similar symptoms would be inspired to get a second opinion from doctors.
Frances, of Mickleover, Derbyshire, said: “When I was told, as a 14-year-old, that my classic endometriosis symptoms were exaggerated and imaginary, I felt forced to accept it.
“This led to 17 years of pain, misery, and an eventual diagnosis of infertility, which has devastated the lives of myself, my family, and my now husband: a situation that could so easily have been prevented.
“I have to live with the consequences, caused by a total lack of investigation by two medical professionals, who were condescending about me in letters on my medical file.
“Fortunately, we had our happy ending, as our beautiful son Harry was born in 2018, following IVF.
“Via social media, I have spoken to dozens of other women who felt they have been grossly let down in similar circumstances.
“Often, like me, they had diagnosed themselves perfectly, yet no one would take them seriously.
“I hope my story will give hope and encouragement to others, to make a fuss, persevere, and trust their own minds when they feel something is wrong.”
Frances will now need to undergo a hysterectomy and bowel resection which carries risks of complications.
Leigh Day solicitor Stephen Jones, who represented Frances, said: “It was quite shocking to me that Frances’s complaints were not taken seriously at the outset.
“She was treated quite patronisingly and as a result her endometriosis was left to become much more severe and that has adversely affected her life in many ways.
“I am pleased that we were able to negotiate substantial compensation to reflect that and I hope that there is a more enlightened approach these days to the recognition and treatment of endometriosis.”
Nottingham University Hospitals Trust medical director, Dr Keith Girling, said: “We are very sorry that the care Ms Bell received in 2001 fell below the normal standard we would expect for our patients.
“Had we correctly diagnosed her endometriosis earlier some of her distress could have been avoided, and for that we are truly sorry.
“Our organisation sets itself high standards in terms of the care we deliver, and we are committed to learning and improving.
“Over the last 19 years a lot has changed at our trust including practice in relation to diagnostic laparoscopy, for which we follow the 2017 NICE guidelines.”
One in ten women in the UK are affected by the painful condition which occurs when tissue from the lining of the womb is found in other areas of the body including the
ovaries, Fallopian tubes, the abdomen and the bladder.
There’s no cure but getting a diagnosis will allow for earlier treatment that could help people avoid years of unbearable pain.
The main symptoms include heavy periods, pain during and after sex, infertility, bleeding between periods, pain going to the toilet and fatigue.