Compensation claims for missed cancer diagnosis
The following article sets out what you need to know about making a missed or late cancer diagnosis compensation claim.
NHS statistics reveal that every year as many as 100 cancer patients bring claims against the NHS after being wrongly given the all clear by medical professionals.
Missing a vital cancer diagnosis may mean patients later enduring more radical therapies to fight the disease. It may also mean that a patient endures unnecessary pain and suffering, and in some cases, the disease may have reached a point where treatment is no longer effective. Recent analysis by Cancer Research UK estimates that more than 50,000 patients every year may have their survival rate cut because of a missed or late diagnosis of their cancer.
A study by the National Patient Safety Agency revealed gynaecological, skin, urological and breast cancers were those most likely to be commonly associated with a missed diagnosis.
The reasons for missed or late diagnosis vary depending on a range of factors, and some cancers are more difficult to identify. Nevertheless, where a cancer patient's standard of care has fallen below the accepted standard and a diagnosis is missed due to a medical professional's negligence, it may be possible to make a clinical negligence compensation claim.
I have a strong claim - why won't a solicitor take it on?
Early symptoms of cancer are not always obvious; therefore, a patient's GP may fail to recognise the key signs. Where the GP fails to identify a potential cancer risk and does not refer his patient for further investigations, the diagnosis may be missed.
Even where a referral to a specialist has been made a diagnosis may be missed through other errors.
These may include:
- Mixing up tissue samples
- Losing test results
- Misinterpretation of scans
- Failure to act on test results
- Wrongly giving the "all clear"
If a patient believes that a competent doctor should have been able to diagnose the cancer and that by not doing so the patient has sustained harm, then he may have a claim for medical negligence.
Harm can be defined as having a worse prognosis due to the missed diagnosis, or having to undergo more serious or invasive treatment than would otherwise be the case. The claimant may have also endured pain for a longer period of time.
To evaluate whether a patient has a claim a solicitor will need to examine the claimant's medical notes. These will reveal how many times the doctor was consulted before referral for further tests. They may also demonstrate whether or not the doctor considered factors such as the claimant's age, lifestyle, occupation or past medical history when assessing his symptoms.
The solicitor will also discuss the impact of the missed diagnosis and how this changed the outcome of the cancer.
Compensation payments for missed cancer diagnosis vary widely, depending on the type of cancer and how the late diagnosis affects the individual outcome.
Awards are divided into two categories:
- General damages for the pain and suffering the claimant experienced and for any loss of ability to participate in previously enjoyed activities
- Special damages to reimburse any direct financial losses, such as cost of care and loss of earnings, both now and in the future
The amount of compensation you will receive depends on a number of factors. Our personal injury compensation calculator provides an accurate estimate of your likely compensation.
Personal injury solicitors now work on a No Win, No Fee basis.
No Win, No Fee means that if your claim is not successful, you will not need to pay any legal fees.
If you do win your case, a success fee will be deducted from the compensation award and paid to your solicitor.
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About the author
Paul is a member of the Law Society Personal Injury Panel, a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, and has served as a Deputy District Judge, giving him a uniquely broad understanding of the claims process.
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