NHS planning earlier cancer diagnosis to save lives

Plans to increase cancer survival rates have resulted in proposals being made for new reforms since the rate in England currently stands below the European average, particularly for individuals over the age of 75.

NHS Research suggests that almost half of all cancer patients are diagnosed at a late stage, which can have significant and devastating impact not only on a patient’s health, but also their financial security.

Christopher Livingston, clinical negligence solicitor at Blackwater Law, deals with late cancer diagnosis compensation claims and has this to say on the issue:

“Current healthcare procedures are failing many cancer patients; this is clear from the UK performing so badly in comparison to other EU states in relation to cancer survival rates. Early diagnosis is crucial to effective treatment of the disease. It can mean patients beating the disease all together, or at the very least, having longer with their loved ones.

Mr Livingston went on to say: “Where cancer is diagnosed late and this is due to an error on the part of a doctor or GP, patients may be entitled to compensation. This compensation will not assist in treatment, but it can offer crucial financial reassurance to the patient and their families.”

The NHS report also included that with approximately 52,000 cases of common cancers spotted too late every year that the NHS would be paying an additional £150 million in treating patients.

This additional cost to the NHS doesn’t include any payments made to patients who have received late cancer diagnosis compensation. Mistreated patients may be entitled to financial remedy to ease the financial and emotional burden that so often follows delayed cancer diagnosis.

Late diagnosis means that the cancer cells have more time to spread within the body and this means that it is harder to treat as more treatment is required, and it cannot be targeted at single areas for example. This reduces a patient’s chance of survival, increases the costs of treatment in terms of time, emotional stress and physical pain for individuals and their families.

The suggestion of a self-referral system for patients to receive cancer testing is in the process of becoming a reality. This would give patients the opportunity to skip a doctor’s appointment with their own GP. Instead it is proposed they will be able to contact hospitals and specialists themselves directly to arrange tests and consultations.

It is envisaged that this change would offer patients multiple cancer tests in the same place, on the same day which will allow doctors to detect any types of cancer much faster, but also avoid scenarios where the extent of the cancer could not be revealed if testing for singular type cancer individually.

In addition to this, the NHS is considering giving GPs the authority to skip the specialist referral stage so that, in the event that they have cancer suspicions or evidence, they can send patients directly for testing and not have to go through a specialist first, saving an enormous amount of time.

It is thought all of this will help to decrease the shocking 25% of cancer diagnoses which are made too late.

Improved treatment

Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) is becoming more widely introduced after common beliefs suggesting it is a less damaging and more precise radiotherapy method for treating some kinds of lung cancer.

This has sparked interest in researching the effects of SABR on other types of cancer, so the NHS in England is considering involving 750 patients per year in new studies. An action plan involving cancer doctors, patients and different charity leaders is in the process of being created so that this can start to happen.

Pre-empting the evidence suggesting an increase of a third in the number of cancer cases over the next 15 years, Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK suggests now is the perfect time to set “new ambitions” relating to how this increase can be combatted by an improvement in the treatment the NHS is currently offering.

A target of saving an additional 8,000 lives a year has been suggested by NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens. In an interview he recognised an all-time high in cancer survival rates but acknowledged “too many patients are still being diagnosed late”.

If you believe you, or a family member, have suffered due to late diagnosis of cancer call 0800 032 5500 today and speak to a specialist clinical negligence solicitor in Essex.