When we visit doctors and hospitals with our loved ones, we do so seeking reassurance and clarity. We usually want to know why they have been taken ill, what it means for their health, and what can be done to put them on the mend as soon as possible.
We essentially visit hoping for good news, and thankfully, in most cases, doctors and nurses have the answers we crave.
It is only natural for us to seek such reassurance. Should a relative be suddenly taken ill, we want to hear positive news, and be told that everything will be ok.
However, as both patients and relatives, we should do much more than simply accept what a doctor or nurse tells us.
Yes, the healthcare professionals we see have the expert medical knowledge and understanding, but they don’t have what a relative, or especially a parent has when looking after their child, and that is instinct.
As experts in medical negligence compensation claims, we handle many cases each year of misdiagnosis and late diagnosis of conditions.
Recent figures showed that the NHS paid out compensation to 1,302 patients or bereaved families whose illnesses or conditions had been misdiagnosed last year, so it is clear from these figures that doctors are not always on the mark.
About one in 10 payouts went to patients whose cancer had been missed, something described as a ‘disaster for every patient involved’ by Patient Concern.
Of course, we are not saying patients across the UK should start disputing all their doctor says.
However, we feel it is certainly important that both patients and relatives feel able to ask detailed questions over their care, and should they be concerned that something important is not being considered, or even worse ignored, they should speak up.
Unfortunately we see many cases in which patients and relatives regret not asking more during the process of examination, diagnosis and treatment. Others feel they have been ignored completely, and when their fears are confirmed further down the line, they are left feeling frustrated, angry and let down.
As it is currently Child Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the impact of childhood cancer, and the work of groups and organisations which support young cancer patients and their families, it is a good time to urge all parents and relatives to trust their instincts and make sure they are happy with the answers health professionals give.
Misdiagnosis of cancer, or the condition being missed altogether by a healthcare professional, only makes the circumstances more difficult. Early detection is vital and impacts the level of treatment a patient may have to undergo.
So as patients, relatives of a loved one, or a parent, don’t be afraid to ask the serious questions and trust your instincts.
Doctors are not always right, as the statistics have sadly shown.