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The Misdiagnosis of Cancer: NHS Compensation Payouts Have Reached £44.6M Since 2006

The Misdiagnosis of Cancer: NHS Compensation Payouts Have Reached £44.6M Since 2006

New figures have revealed that the NHS has paid damages totalling £44.6m to 691 patients in the last eight years who brought medical negligence claims after hospitals missed a vital cancer diagnosis.

The average payout to a patient for a faulty cancer diagnosis is around £65,000 but in some cases the damages have reached close to £1million.

The news of payouts, come as an analysis by Cancer Research UK estimates that 52,000 patients a year are having their chances of survival cut because the disease is not caught quickly enough.

Delays in cancer treatment highlighted

Separate NHS statistics show that even after a diagnosis has been made up to one in four bowel, lung and stomach cancer patients are having to wait longer than the Government's target of two months after being referred for urgent treatment by their GP.

Meanwhile, research from the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) has identified that the areas of the body most commonly associated with a delay in cancer diagnosis are gynaecological, skin, urological and breast.

The NPSA’s study also claimed that in one-third of cases the patient suffered harm because of the delay, which most commonly was between one and three months. It found that doctors failed to spot key signs of cancer, tissue samples were mixed up, some patients were wrongly given an all-clear and vital diagnostic tests were delayed because of staff and equipment shortages.

Elsewhere, an audit by the Royal College of Surgeons has suggested that thousands of men with prostate cancer are missing out on the best treatment in many parts of the country. Its national audit of prostate cancer discovered that four out of five hospitals treating the disease do not have the most advanced radiotherapy, and a quarter lack crucial scans and half do not offer dedicated help for common side-effects.

NHS negligence compensation figures the tip of the iceberg

Commenting on the studies’ findings, Peter Walsh, the chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, the patient safety charity, says: "The figures for compensation cases are almost certainly only the tip of the iceberg, with the vast majority of such cases being unrecorded”.

“The problem of misdiagnosis or late diagnosis is one of the biggest but least spoken about problems relating to patient safety. It is a very understated and huge problem, sometimes with the most severe consequences for the patient. We believe that a major drive is needed to improve the diagnosis and then the treatment of serious illnesses, such as cancer”.

“Advanced software packages that can aid doctors make successful diagnoses have proved their worth in other parts of the world and their use should be more widespread in the NHS."

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