On the 14th October 2021, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) published a national patient safety investigation report, which highlighted that lung cancer was being missed on the first chest x-ray, for about 20% of patients.
Lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer that is diagnosed in England. However, it also accounts for the most deaths. It is known that lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates across Europe, and it is believed that delays in diagnosing the condition can often be a contributory factor to this. The HSIB reported that up to two thirds of patients are diagnosed at such a late stage of the disease, that curative treatment is no longer an option.
A chest x-ray is the first test that is performed to diagnose lung cancer, and diagnosis at this stage, will give patients the best chance of successful treatment.
The HSIB has made three recommendations to NHS England to try and improve these rates of diagnosis:
- Increase collaboration with research partners to look into whether CT scans are another cost-effective scan that may help diagnose symptomatic patients, in addition to chest x-rays;
- Review current safety netting advice that is given with regards to possible lung cancer. The wording of this advice should be changed to make it clear what ongoing tests and investigations should be offered to any patient that continues to suffer from unexplained symptoms, but the chest x-ray did not identify a lesion; and
- Increase collaboration with the Royal College of Radiologists and the Society and College of Radiographers, to help develop and improve artificial intelligence which may identify lung diseases including cancer.
We know that early detection of cancer is vital to ensure that patients receive the appropriate treatment to facilitate recovery. If there has been a delay, this may have allowed the cancer to spread to other areas of the body, or increase in size, such that treatment options are reduced, and may be more invasive or lengthy. It may be that that delay has been the difference between whether a patient can be cured, or is only amenable to life prolonging treatment.
The Government has recently announced increased funding for diagnostic centres, to try and reduce the delays in diagnosing all types of cancer. However, is this enough? Steps need to be taken to ensure that there are enough staff with appropriate training, to help run the new diagnostic centres and report imaging correctly.
How can we help?
We have a specialist team of solicitors that are experienced in bringing claims for delayed diagnosis of cancer. We recognise that delays in diagnosis create significant emotional stress for patients and their families, as well as often taking a physical toll on the patient.
If you think that this has happened to you, please get in touch to see if we can help you.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Megan on 01522 561020