A doctor’s practice in England was planning to send a text message to its patients wishing them a “Very Merry Christmas”. Instead, the mass text told patients they had “aggressive lung cancer” that had spread and asked them to complete a form for terminally ill patients.
The mass text from Askern Medical Practice in Doncaster was sent on December 23, according to the BBC. In it, the practice says the doctor asked the beneficiary to complete a DS1500 form – which another UK hospital system says is for people with terminal illness to apply for benefits. The text also tells recipients that they have been diagnosed with “aggressive lung cancer with metastases.”
In a second text, patients were asked to accept the centre’s “sincere apologies”.
“This was sent by mistake,” he says. “Our message should have read We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
The centre, which has around 8,000 patients according to the BBC, has not publicly commented on the incident. The firm’s latest press release, published in September, acknowledged “the excellent feedback from patients regarding telephone consultations”.
Carl Chegwin told the BBC his mother was one of the patients who received the text.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘Is this some kind of bad joke?’ said Chegwin. “It took me completely by surprise. … They just told people a few days before Christmas that they have terminal lung cancer. They can’t do that.”
Another woman who asked not to be named told the outlet that the text made her “very worried” because some of her family members had recently been tested for breast problems. She also saw several other people panicking about the message.
“I called the doctors but on hold as usual. So I walked around as I live around the corner and there were, I would say, six people all there panicking as they had received the same text,” she said.
The UK’s National Health Service, which oversees publicly funded healthcare, also did not comment on the situation. On the same day the texts were sent, the service tweeted an unrelated, “Be kind to yourself if you’re grieving,” along with information on how to deal with bereavement over the holiday season.
“What if the message was meant for someone, and then they’re told it’s a Christmas message, and then they’re told again, ‘oh no, it was actually meant for you,'” Chegwin said. “If it’s one of their admins mass texting, I wouldn’t trust them to empty the bins.”