During the pandemic, we wrote about concerns over people not being able to access health care services, or not wanting to “bother” an over-stretched NHS with a symptom that might turn out to be nothing serious.  Unfortunately, sometimes this DID turn out to be serious and none more serious than missed or delayed diagnosis for cancer. 

As medical negligence solicitors, we see quite a few cases where this has happened and in some cases, the cancer has then sadly become untreatable.

Not all cases of missed/delayed diagnosis are due to negligence. However, some cancers have very few or insignificant symptoms, which may go un-noticed and some may have no symptoms at all, until it is too late for anything but very radical treatment or no beneficial treatment is possible.  No-one can be said to be at fault in many cases where this happens.

But some good news is that a record 2.7 million people were referred for cancer checks in the last year, according to NHS England.  But although referrals for suspected cancer are about 16% higher -up from about 2.4 million to 2.65 million-than pre-pandemic levels, at least 30,000 people are still waiting to start treatment.

Dame Cally Palmer, national cancer director for NHS England, said the new figures represented progress.

She said:

“We are going further and faster than ever before in our ambitions to diagnose more cancers at an earlier stage so that we can save more lives. It is vital that we keep these referral rates high”

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer added:

“Primary care referrals are at record levels and about 11,000 people a day are being tested”

11,000 is quite an astonishing number and there are other facilities being increased so even more people can be checked, such as “one-stop shops”, for tests, mobile clinics, postal checks and symptom hotlines.  There is also investment in buying more diagnostic equipment such as scanners, plus also the training of staff to use these.

The rise in demand for checks reflects how the population is changing.  Cancer diagnoses are going up by about 3% a year, but this is because we now live longer than we did-long enough to develop cancer- and fewer people now die because of illness and disease, or things like heart attacks and strokes.

But Professor Johnson tells us that the number of people being seen for cancer tests is going up at a faster rate than the numbers of people with cancer.

The government says it is putting into place a 10 year cancer plan which will improve cancer care, cut waiting times and speed up dealing with backlogs.  This does however cost and the government will introduce a health and social care levy to go towards this cost.

Minesh Patel, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

 “It’s vital the government includes steps in the upcoming 10-year cancer plan to grow the number of cancer professionals so that people living with cancer receive the quality and timely care they desperately need.”

A comment that could be said across the board of all health care, not just cancer!

But at least a bit of positive news for an illness that can be totally devastating for those who are diagnosed with it and their families, but in many cases IS treatable, especially if caught early.

We can help

If you have had a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis and want to talk to our Medical Negligence Team please get in touch. Call our team on 01522 561020 or email wecanhelp@ringroselaw.co.uk


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