According to figures obtained by Macmillan Cancer Support, NHS England has spent £100 million since 2003 resolving legal claims due to delays, errors or inadequate care related to cancer.
Through freedom of information requests to the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), Macmillan obtained details of 1,860 legal claims between 2003 and 2014 relating to cancer care and treatment made against the NHS and resolved. The £100 million figure includes the cost to the NHS of both successful and unsuccessful claims, and includes legal fees and damages.
According to The Telegraph, two-thirds of successful claims were from people who had problems getting a diagnosis or starting treatment and, as a result, suffered physical and/or psychological consequences.
Macmillan is calling for improvements in early diagnosis as this gives patients a better prospect of successful cancer treatment and survival.
Commenting on this data, Lucie Prothero, an associate at Penningtons Manches who specialises in delayed diagnosis of cancer claims, said: “This data reflects the increase that we have seen in the number of enquiries and claims from cancer sufferers and their families who are concerned that the opportunity for an earlier diagnosis was missed. Often in circumstances where there is a claim for negligence, it has involved patients presenting to clinicians with consistent patterns of symptoms, where appropriate investigations have not taken place, or those investigations have not been properly reported, considered or followed-up.
“A significant factor contributing to delayed diagnosis of cancer is often a lack of awareness amongst the public about the signs and symptoms to be worried about, and the need to see their GPs promptly when symptoms persist. We agree with Macmillan that awareness campaigns and encouraging patients to seek medical attention when symptoms persist are vital to increase earlier diagnosis and survival rates. It is hoped that increased awareness will help to prevent the poor outcomes that not only cause such emotional and physical harm to patients but also further burden the NHS financially.”