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An increasing number of patients with suspected cancer are facing longer delays before starting their treatment, raising concerns over the potential for cancer misdiagnosis claims from those that have suffered adverse consequences as a result.
In the 12 months until June 2018 there were more than 130,000 people in England waiting more than two weeks for their first appointment with a cancer specialist after being urgently referred by their GP. This represents an increase of more than 25,000 patients who experienced the same delays during the same period in 2016/2017 raising concerns about the impact on patient welfare and the potential for delayed diagnosis claims as a result.
The NHS has a number of cancer waiting time targets in place to help ensure that those with suspected or diagnosed cancer are given the priority needed in order to maximise the success of treatment. One such target is that 85% of those with cancer should receive their first treatment within 62 days (or two months) of the initial suspected cancer appointment with their GP. However, in June the target was missed by the largest percentage with only 79.2% of patients receiving treatment in such time. This meant that 27,246 people did not have their first treatment for their cancer within the 62 days – the highest number since records began in 2009.
The figures also show that almost two thirds of hospitals were unable to provide patients with their first appointments within 14 days. This can mean that where the cancer spreads quickly, more substantial treatment may be required due to the delays which can have a negative impact on patient recovery and lead to lasting consequences. In instances where it has been proved that further treatment was required due to the delays, or where patient outcomes have been adversely affected it may be possible to seek hospital negligence compensation.
The figures also highlight significant variations across the trusts with some meeting the cancer targets and others missing them by substantial margins highlighting the inconsistencies of treatment experienced by patients across the country. This means that patients living in a certain area may have a better access to treatment than those living in a different area of the country. The impact of this may be that there are higher levels of cancer misdiagnosis claims in certain areas depending on a trusts performance against the targets.
Commenting on the latest figures Moira Fraser, Director of Policy at Macmillan Cancer Support said:
“It mustn’t be forgotten that at the heart of these figures are thousands of cancer patients and their families having their lives put on hold for months on end as a result. This is unacceptable.”
It is understood that an increasing number of patients are being diagnosed or treated for suspected cancer than ever before and this must understandably put a strain on the health services ability to cope, however, it looks as though the number of patients with cancer is only set to increase and therefore steps need to be taken to ensure that cancer targets are met.