Cancer misdiagnosis claims set to rise as breast cancer wait periods skyrocket

The key to treating any form of cancer effectively lies in identifying the condition early and beginning treatment as soon as possible. In January 2022 however, data gathered from British GPs revealed a quadrupling in the number of women not seen by a breast cancer specialist within the NHS’s two-week target after being urgently referred.

The shocking statistic means that tens of thousands of women across the UK are at risk of having their breast cancer identified late, with delayed diagnosis claims set to rise across the nation as they struggle to cope with the potentially life-threatening consequences.

The most recent data available at the time of writing indicates that 23,704 women were not seen quickly enough in November 2021; up from 5,280 in September. This equates to almost half of all women referred by their GP during this timeframe; and represents a shocking failure in the NHS’s ability to live up to its duty of care to these women. The staggering drop in performance is thought to be due to the backlog of patients created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an increase in the number of women coming forward to their GPs as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.

The news comes at a time when healthcare professionals continue to warn that wait-period targets for all forms of cancer treatment continue to be missed across the country. Currently for example, almost a quarter of patients referred to a specialist with suspected skin cancer are forced to wait longer than the recommended two weeks to be seen. They represent another large demographic who may be forced to rely on delayed diagnosis compensation claims to address the adverse health effects they experience as a result.

Extended waiting periods are associated not just with poorer patient outcomes, but with additional stress and anxiety on the part of those left not knowing whether they have cancer. This stress can manifest as a variety of negative health affects for the patient and their family, which could themselves also form the basis for a cancer compensation claim.

Charities working to support families affected by cancer, such as Breast Cancer Now, have described the findings as “alarming” and highlight the need for additional funding to help the NHS meet the increased demand and reverse the decline in care standards. Macmillan Cancer Support also cite chronic staffing shortages in cancer care units as contributing to some 50,000 patients across the UK risking a delayed cancer diagnosis following the effects of the pandemic.

If you or a family member have experienced a long wait to see a specialist following referral for breast cancer, you could be entitled to make a delayed diagnosis claim. For information on the options available to you, contact a medical negligence solicitor today; it could be the key to securing the financial support you need to face the consequences.

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