A GP whose patient died from a cancerous lump on her neck has been told to apologise to the family and carry out more training.

The doctor failed to refer the 76-year-old woman for an ultrasound scan after she was told to by another doctor, a decision by deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Kevin Allan released today has found.

The doctor failed to follow a colleague's order to send a referral to the hospital for an ultrasound in December 2015 and told the HDC she was not sure why it was not sent once the blood results arrived.

When the doctor finally made the referral six months later in July 2016, she failed to prioritise it as urgent so it took another five months before the patient was seen at the hospital.


The woman finally had the ultrasound scan in December 2016 - a year after it was first called for - which identified a suspicious lesion later confirmed to be an inoperable thyroid cancer. She has since died from it.

Despite visiting the doctor several times during 2016, the doctor only checked the mass on the first visit and did not make a record of it.

On the two subsequent visits she failed to examine or review the mass even though it had grown in size.

Allan, in his decision, ruled the GP had failed to carry out her duty with care and reasonable skill by not making a referral when she was instructed to do so by another doctor.

He also criticised her for not correctly prioritising the referring, tracking the progress or keeping any eye on the mass.

Allan recommended the GP write an apology to the woman's family and carry out training in the management of thyroid masses.