Heartbreaking last message of Thornbury nurse who died from terminal cancer after Bristol hospital failed to diagnose her

A nurse with terminal cancer delivered a heartbreaking final message just three days before she died.

Julie O’Connor was given the all-clear by Southmead Hospital staff following a cervical smear test in 2014, however, five years on she found herself on her deathbed after what she described as “a catalogue of errors” .

Her cancer spread and became incurable after the hospital allegedly missed several opportunities to diagnose the 49-year-old’s illness.

In the video, the mum-of-two – who had worked for the NHS for 13 years – recorded a message in which she said her suffering had been “disgusting”.

“I think it took six attempts for the cancer to be diagnosed. It’s disgusting I have been suffering the way I have and I continue to suffer,” she said in her hospice bed, only able to whisper.

During the video, Julie appears weak and short of breath as she recounts her ordeal to the camera. She died three days after it was filmed at St Peter’s Hospice in Brentry on February 4, Mirror Online reports.

Julie, from Thornbury, complained of symptoms in 2014, but a test came back negative.


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She added she had numerous biopsies and examinations, but that it was not until three years after the initial diagnosis that a private consultant informed her she had cancer.

Husband Kevin told the camera: “The pathologist and the gynaecologist, who had several opportunities to intervene, I hold them responsible, and I do hold the board of directors at North Bristol Trust accountable.

“They put me and Julie through this. What we want to do with this video is to show the board of directors what they’ve done. What they’ve done to me and Julie and our family. And I just hope this doesn’t happen to anybody else. We want a wider review.”



Julie said she was only diagnosed when she went private

North Bristol NHS Trust said it would be commissioning an independent review of the Root Cause Analysis investigation into the care Julie received, which should be finished by the end of March 2019.

Medical director of the trust, Dr Chris Burton, said: “We are extremely sorry to hear that Mrs O’Connor has died; we have her family in our thoughts at this very difficult time and we send our deepest condolences.

“We are committed to understanding the full circumstances of the care we provided so we can improve our services for the future, and we will be publicly open with the overall findings of the independent investigation we have commissioned.

“I have met with Mr O’Connor and will remain in contact with him.”

Last year Julie told Bristol Live that she wanted to encourage women to get retested if they were having ongoing symptoms.



Julie and her husband Kevin in 2018

“It’s too late now to cure me. I am having chemotherapy and radiotherapy but all they can do is give me palliative care to prolong my life,” Julie said back then.

“If they had caught it back in 2014 or even 2015 it could’ve been a completely different story.

“My main concern now is making sure that other women who had tests back in 2014 and 2015 are aware that if they are having ongoing symptoms or think something is wrong they should challenge the results and get retested,” she added.



Southmead Hospital
Southmead Hospital

She continued: “The last thing I want to do is put people off having smears, but just to question things if you are having symptoms like I was then challenge it and push it further,” she added.

Last year, Dr Burton told Bristol Live the trust wanted to reiterate its apologies to Julie.

He said: “We would like to reassure women that we review every case where there is the suggestion that the opportunity to intervene has been missed and use this to learn any lessons to help us improve our service.”


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Cervical cancer screenings have saved thousands of lives and the introduction of the NHS cervical screening programme in 1988 has decreased deaths as a result of this type of cancer by 70 per cent.

However, there were still 726 deaths from the disease in England in 2014 and a total of 890 in the whole of the UK.