Steep Increase In Delayed Diagnosis Damages Awards

15 Jun 2020 | Stephanie Prior

Claims for compensation for delayed diagnosis, harm and deaths sadly continue to rise. The president of the Royal College of Surgeons commenting on the ongoing rise said, ’The steep increase in the number of patients awarded damages because of delays in their treatment or misdiagnosis is very concerning’.

Protracted waiting times

For many reasons, the NHS has waiting lists for treatment. For example, according to the National Audit Office (the organisation which audits government departments), although the national target is for 85% of patients suspected of having cancer to be treated within 18 weeks of referral by their general practitioner, this target has been breached continuously since the end of 2013. At Osbornes Law we feel it is interesting to consider that if the accepted length of waiting time is stipulated so clearly, it may be reasonable to say that breaches of these targets amount to negligence.

Whatever the cause, Osbornes Law has acted for families of patients who waited far too long for an ambulance to arrive to transport them to hospital and this has led to premature death.

Have you or a loved one been affected by a delayed diagnosis?

A delayed diagnosis of a clinical problem can result in severe injury, impairment and in the worst case, preventable death. If you or a loved one has been affected by a delayed diagnosis you may be eligible to claim compensation for medical negligence. Our team of specialist solicitors are available to speak with and discuss your situation. Call 020 7485 8811 and ask for Stephanie Prior.

Our Promise to You

· We will review your potential claim by advising you on the NHS complaints procedure or other alternative procedure if your case does not relate to NHS care and treatment.

· We will not charge a fee for our time in reviewing your case.

· We can assist you with any issues that you may have regarding the complaints procedure or that you encounter in obtaining copies of your medical records.

· We will advise you of the course of action in respect to your case.

Other Misdiagnosis and Delay Claims

Misread test results

Your scan or X-rays may have been misread, causing delay in diagnosis and, in our experience, sometimes even unnecessary death.

Missed cancer diagnosis

Delayed diagnosis is a major factor in the UK’s low cancer survival rate when compared to other European countries. In addition, across the country there is significant variation in the detection of cancer at an early stage. The main problem with these facts is that early cancer diagnosis and treatment greatly improves the chances of survival with a good quality of life. It has been shown that delayed cancer diagnosis accounts for between 5,000 and 10,000 deaths in England alone, costing the NHS £150 million each year.

We act for several families of relatives who were not diagnosed with cancer when they should have been due to system failure at the NHS Trust and this has led to the cancer being at an advanced stage and premature death.

Prostate cancer

It has recently emerged that men who take treatment for enlarged prostate are at risk of delay in the diagnosis of prostate cancer, and when they are finally diagnosed, the cancer is more likely to be at an advanced stage. The reason is that the drugs for enlarged prostate lower blood levels of Prostate Specific Antigen, which is the primary marker for prostate cancer.

The large study into the issue showed that men who were on drugs for enlarged prostate were diagnosed with prostate cancer over 2 years later than men who did not use the drug. So, if doctors do not take into consideration the effects of these drugs, they could miss prostate cancer when it is at an early stage. When prostate cancer then presents at an advanced stage, the chance of a good outcome is significantly reduced.

Brain tumour diagnosed as stress and hay fever

A teenager who attended his doctor over 20 times in 5 months with headaches, tiredness and delayed growth was told he was suffering from either a virus or stress due to exams. He was actually suffering a cancerous brain tumour. One doctor even diagnosed hay fever and sent him home with a nasal spray. Eventually his mother became tired of being fobbed off and took him to Accident and Emergency where he underwent the correct tests and received his diagnosis. The cancer was found to be too deep to be removed by surgery, so he then endured a course of radiotherapy.

Dangerous medical conditions missed in Accident and Emergency

While cancer delay stories tend to make the headlines, delay in the correct diagnosis of other medical conditions can have severe and devastating consequences.

Osbornes Law has recently acted for families of patients seriously affected by delays in diagnosis. These include:

· failure to diagnose and transport to hospital by the Ambulance Service,

· a family whose son was not diagnosed with appendicitis in A & E and died aged 14,

· a gentleman in his 60’s who was discharged from A & E with heart problems as it was thought he had asthma and he died several hours later of a cardiac arrest,

· a 42 year old gentleman who was misdiagnosed in A & E with asthma and died several hours later at work of a cardiac arrest,

· a gentleman in his early 60’s who was not followed up in hospital after presenting with abdominal difficulties and died due to failure to diagnose gallstones, which later developed to acute pancreatitis.

Missed infection

Some infections if not recognised immediately can result in rapid death. These infections include meningitis. A report published by the charity Meningitis Research Foundation says that around ‘30% of babies with bacterial meningitis receive inappropriate early treatment which delays parents seeking further help and around 49% of children who have […] the most common cause of bacterial meningitis are sent home after their first visit to a GP and are not admitted to hospital.’ These statistics take on a grave significance when it is recognised that when a child presents with symptoms of meningitis they could be close to death within the next 24 hours.

To compound these risks, it has just come to light that more than a million people could have missed out on getting a potentially life-saving vaccine against meningitis, due to a mistake in the NHS IT system. The Meningitis Research Foundation claims that this error could have resulted in the deaths of young people who should have received or at least been offered the vaccine. Indeed, it has been reported that a 21-year-old man died from meningitis after his GP failed to inform him that he could receive a free vaccine against the disease, because of an IT error. When he initially presented to Tunbridge Wells Hospital, he was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and discharged home. When he was taken back to hospital 6 hours later, he was commenced on treatment for meningitis but died within a few hours.

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