Husband slams a hospital for delaying his ill wife’s surgery

‘You can smell death on her breath’: Husband slams a hospital for cancelling his cancer-stricken wife’s life-saving surgery THREE TIMES

  • Derek Lewthwaite’s wife Jane was diagnosed with mouth cancer months ago
  • Royal Preston Hospital medics said surgery was her only hope of surviving
  • Surgery has been postponed three times due to a lack of beds and theatre time
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A husband has slammed a hospital after it cancelled his cancer-stricken wife’s life-saving surgery three times.

Derek Lewthwaite, 65, claims his wife Jane Lewthwaite, 64 – who was diagnosed with mouth cancer two months ago – is in a race against time while she waits for a critical operation.

However, a shortage of beds and theatre time at the Royal Preston Hospital means Mrs Lewthwaite’s life-saving procedure was pushed back multiple times last month, her husband said.

Mrs Lewthwaite, of Blackpool, has had to have her morphine dose doubled while she suffers ‘unimaginable pain’ that leaves her unable to sleep. 

With doctors warning surgery is Mrs Lewthwaite’s only hope of survival, her husband claims he can already ‘smell death on her breath’. 

Derek Lewthwaite (right) has slammed Royal Preston Hospital after they cancelled his cancer-stricken wife Jane Lewthwaite’s life-saving operation three times. Pictured together left during happier times, he claims he can ‘smell death on her breath’ as she suffers ‘unimaginable pain’

Mrs Lewthwaite was scheduled to be operated on three times at the Royal Preston Hospital, however, the couple were told each procedure was postponed due to a lack of beds and theatre time. The medical director of the hospital’s trust has since apologised 

‘Every cancellation increases the chance of the cancer spreading,’ Mr Lewthwaite said. ‘She’s got a big droop [on her face] and a lump growing in the side of her face.

‘You can smell the death on her breath and it’s horrendous. Breath fresheners have no impact on it.’ Severe and frequent halitosis is a common symptom of mouth cancer.

Mrs Lewthwaite was diagnosed six-to-eight weeks ago, with medics at the Royal Preston warning ‘the only cure was an operation and reconstructive surgery – having her jaw reconstructed,’ her husband said.

Following surgery, the couple were told she would undergo radiotherapy, which would give her a 50 per cent chance of a long-term cure. 

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The operation was initially scheduled for December 5, but was later cancelled, with the couple being told there was no intensive care bed available.

It was then booked for December 12, with Mrs Lewthwaite been admitted, prepared and even marked with pencil to show where the surgery was required.

By this time, Mr Lewthwaite claims his wife’s morphine dose had doubled as she struggled to cope with the pain. But the procedure was cancelled again due to there being no bed.

The couple’s hopes were raised yet once more when the hospital contacted them on December 23 to say a surgeon might be available on Christmas Eve.

But they were devastated to have the operation cancelled yet again due to lack of a space in the hospital’s operating theatre.

‘I was promised a telephone call between Christmas and New Year, but by 3pm on Friday, December 28, I had heard nothing from them so made some calls and was told it was being dealt with in another department,’ a frustrated Mr Lewthwaite said.  

January 7 is now being suggested as another possible date.

‘My wife has lost a stone in weight, she can’t sleep, the pain is unimaginable,’ Mr Lewthwaite said. ‘Her morphine has been doubled.’

He is appealing to hospital bosses to step in and find a solution. ‘Nobody will talk to me,’ he said. ‘Nobody will be helpful.’

Mr Lewthwaite claims he has been advised to take his complaints to the hospital’s patient advice and liaison service but said: ‘I want to make the hospital respond.’

Gerry Skailes, medical director of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘We sincerely apologise to Mrs Lewthwaite for postponing her operation.

‘We recognise that postponing operations causes anxiety and disruption for our patients and their families, so we work hard to ensure all scheduled procedures go ahead as planned.

‘However, when there is a significant increase in the number of patients who need emergency surgery, unfortunately sometimes we need to postpone some planned procedures, particularly if a critical care bed is needed but none is available.

‘We are planning to expand our critical care unit to increase capacity for the future, which should address this issue.

‘We do all we can to reschedule all postponed operations as quickly as possible, and closely monitor patients involved.’ 


Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, is where a tumour develops in the lining of the mouth. 

It may be on the surface of the tongue, the insides of the cheeks, the roof of the mouth (palate), or the lips or gums.

Tumours can also develop in the glands that produce saliva, the tonsils at the back of the mouth, and the part of the throat connecting your mouth to your windpipe (pharynx). However, these are less common. 

Symptoms of mouth cancer include:

  • sore mouth ulcers that don’t heal within several weeks
  • unexplained, persistent lumps in the mouth that don’t go away
  • unexplained, persistent lumps in the neck that don’t go away
  • unexplained looseness of teeth, or sockets that don’t heal after extractions
  • unexplained, persistent numbness or an odd feeling on the lip or tongue
  • sometimes, white or red patches on the lining of the mouth or tongue – these can be early signs of cancer, so they should also be investigated
  • changes in speech, such as a lisp

See your GP or dentist if these symptoms don’t heal within three weeks, particularly if you drink or smoke heavily.

Source: NHS

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