Jessica Brady, 27, died from stage-four cancer in December after struggling to get an in-person appointment with her GP during the pandemic
The mother of a young woman who died from cancer has told MPs her daughter might still be alive if she was seen by her GP face-to-face.
Jessica Brady, 27, from Stevenage in Hertfordshire, passed away from liver cancer in December after a series of virtual appointments over the course of five months failed to spot her tumour.
Her mother, Andrea, told the Health and Social Care Committee today that Jessica was repeatedly denied an in-person appointment after first complaining of abdominal pain last summer, despite the epidemic being largely under control at that point.
She was diagnosed with a kidney infection 'in the absence of any diagnostic testing or any physical examination at all' and prescribed with antibiotics.
When she became extremely fatigued and her symptoms worsened, she was only prescribed more antibiotics, steroids, and an inhaler.
One set of blood tests even revealed Jessica had high D-dimer levels, which can be a signal of solid cancers, the mother told MPs.
And subsequent tests identified concerns regarding her liver function – which her mum said makes sense now as she had liver cancer – but medics decided to wait six weeks to see what happened.
Doctors didn't put 'the pieces of the jigsaw together' that it was cancer until five months later, by which point the cancer had spread around Jessica's body and become untreatable.
It comes as Health Secretary Sajid Javid demanded 'more GPs should be offering face-to-face access' and 'we intend to do a lot more about it'.
Figures show a third fewer people in England are seeing a GP now than before the pandemic and tens of millions of appointments were 'lost' during Covid.
Andrea Brady, Jessica's mum, told MPs her daughter needed a face-to-face appointment 'really early on'. She was told to get a gastroscopy after in-person appointments, but if this happened a few months earlier, her cancer 'wouldn't have spread so aggressively', Mrs Brady said
Ms Brady revealed that Jessica was only finally seen in person by a GP when she bombarded her local surgery with more than 20 phone calls.
The family doctor told the family that Jessica 'probably needs a gastroscopy', her mother told the committee.
If this procedure – which involves a camera taking pictures inside the stomach – happened a few months earlier, her cancer 'wouldn't have spread so aggressively', Ms Brady said.
'Jess was a very gentle, sweet person, but she really did attribute her late diagnosis to the slow reaction of her GP surgery,' her mother added.
Sajid Javid today fired a warning shot at GPs who are still not offering more face-to-face appointments as he hinted at a potential crackdown.
The Health Secretary said 'everyone can understand' why GPs 'couldn't provide access in the normal way' during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
But he said 'we are way past that now' and doctors should be following society in going back to something close to 'completely normal' life.
He said that 'more GPs should be offering face-to-face access' and 'we intend to do a lot more about it'.
Virtual appointments were heavily encouraged throughout the Covid crisis in an attempt to keep social mixing low and hospitals virus-free.
But trusts have continued to incentivise the practice, with GPs being offered bonuses to keep in person attendances low.
There are fears that some people, particularly the elderly, are being left behind.
Recent data from NHS Digital showed 57.2 per cent of appointments in July were conducted face-to-face.
That is higher than the low of 46.8 per cent last April, as the first Covid wave swept across the UK, but