Woman, 27, died after fight for cancer treatment, parents say as MPs warn of critical backlog

ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan hears from Jess Brady's parents

Jess Brady was 27. Her parents describe her as an "absolute beauty"; caring, bright and fun. She started feeling unwell at the end of the Covid lockdown in 2020 and tried repeatedly to see a doctor. Her backache was thought to be a kidney infection and she was given antibiotics; her sore throat and tiredness treated with more antibiotics, then an inhaler and steroids.

Andrea and Simon Brady finally took their daughter to a private clinic and she was diagnosed with an aggressive, advanced cancer. She was, Andrea says, "riddled" with cancer. She died three weeks later.

It is a heartbreaking story: hard to listen to and hard to write about. No one should have their life cut short at 27 and no one should have to fight for a doctor to take their illness seriously.

Jess Brady's parents sit behind a photograph of their late daughter.

Andrea told me Jess had to persuade the GP surgery's receptionists to give her a telephone consultation, she had to fight for the GP to examine her, which they didn’t because of Covid.

Her fears were laughed at because she was "young and healthy". What is so tragic is that Jess didn’t have a chance, she wasn’t given a chance. The cancer was so advanced and had spread so far and wide that once she was diagnosed, she didn’t leave hospital. Who knows what might have happened had Jess been diagnosed sooner. Her parents will never know, but they firmly believe their daughter was let down by the surgery. They are now campaigning to have young people taken seriously and listened to when they present with symptoms.

Jess Brady's parents say they want their actions to be their daughter's legacy

They want a ‘Jess’ Law’ brought in, whereby if a patient returns to the doctor three times their condition is reviewed, and red-flagged if they have to go back a fifth time. It’s a brave thing to do when saddled with grief but both want this to be Jess’s legacy. They say it’s what she wanted. Early diagnosis of cancer can make a huge difference to a patient’s chances of survival. It’s why the government has a target to spot the disease in the early stages in three-quarters of cancer cases. It is currently missing this target and is behind countries like Canada and Australia on survival rates. It sounds as if the government knows it needs to do better - it’s developing a 10-year cancer plan and recognises "business as usual on cancer is not enough".

The problem, though, can’t just be solved with extra diagnostic centres and more money; thousands more staff need to be employed and trained to use the centres, and GP practices need the time and means to see patients and refer them.

There’s no doubt the government’s intentions are good, but in order to be world class there is quite obviously much more to be done.