The consequences of a delayed diagnosis can be a matter of life or death.
Catch a disease quickly and the chances of recovery are significantly higher. Fail to do so and the risk of permanent harm – or worse – begins to ratchet up.
The issue has been in the headlines recently, following the publication of a Cancer Research UK study which found that every year around 115,000 patients in England have their condition detected too late for them to have the best chance of survival.
In the east of England, more than 45% of people diagnosed with cancer get their prognosis in stage three or four, lowering the likelihood of them beating the disease.
There are a host of influences at play here but, according to Cancer Research UK, workforce shortages are a major factor. There is a significant lack of NHS medical staff trained to carry out tests that diagnose cancer, meaning that efforts to treat the disease more swiftly are being thwarted.
Increasing demand will only exacerbate the problem, too – by 2035, more than 500,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer in the UK, compared with nearly 360,000 today.
The human impact behind these statistics is stark. For example, if bowel cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, nine in 10 people will survive – if it is diagnosed at the latest stage, only one in 10 will.
Last year, it emerged that nearly half a million women missed out on breast cancer screening because of an IT error – with the Government admitting up to 270 of those may have died prematurely as a result.
Scandals such as this – and delays more generally to the diagnosis of an illness – are unacceptable, despite the mitigation of funding cuts and difficulties in recruiting.
A patient has the right to receive a proper standard of medical treatment and receive a diagnosis within a reasonable timeframe. Any delay will inevitably cause a hold up in treatment, and additional pain and suffering.
The medical negligence team at Gotelee regularly represents patients who have suffered injury or harm caused by the delayed diagnosis and treatment of their illness or condition.
If you think you have been affected by delayed diagnosis or another form of medical negligence, contact Diana Infanti on 01473 298180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.