DELAYS in a Forth Valley cancer patient's heart surgery has allowed the tumour to progress to a point where treatment was no longer possible.

NHS Forth Valley has issued an apology to the late patient's family following the "mishandled" heart surgery referral, which was highlighted in a report by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

The report came after a complaint was raised by a child of the late patient "A" who was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

The health board identified that the patient would require heart surgery before they would be fit enough for bladder surgery to treat the cancer.

Patient "A" was referred to another health board for the heart surgery, but this took a number of months to arrange and carry out.

The complainer explained that by the time the heart surgery was completed, the bladder cancer progressed to a point where treatment was no longer possible.

The SPSO, which took independent advice from an oncology consultant, said in the report: "We found that the board failed to identify radiotherapy as a possible alternative treatment, despite this advice being given by their oncology team.

"In addition, we found that the board had mishandled the referral to the other health board for heart surgery, failing to ensure that the other board were made aware of the urgency required.

"Then, when there were inevitable delays in surgery as a result, the board failed to identify that the window for treatment was closing."

The SPSO upheld the complaint raised, instructing NHS Forth Valley to apologise for "failing to provide A [the patient] with a reasonable standard of cancer treatment".

The health board has also been told to ensure a full range of treatment options will be considered in the future and that referrals made to other health boards should include full details and any time sensitivity around treatment.

The SPSO added: "Where it is unclear if treatment can be provided quickly enough, direct communication should occur between the relevant teams to explore this and alternative treatment options."

A spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley told the Advertiser that the health board will address all recommendations.

They said: "We have apologised to the family and work is underway to ensure all of the recommendations are addressed within the timescales set by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

"We will also share the findings with local staff and services to ensure we learn from this report and use it to inform future service developments and improvements."