A delayed diagnosis can have catastrophic consequences for patients – potentially meaning the difference between full recovery and permanent harm or even death.
The issue has been in the headlines in recent days after 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.
An independent inquiry has been launched following the revelation, which charities have described as an “appalling error”.
Women age 50 to 70 are invited for an x-ray mammogram every three years to detect any lumps or abnormalities that could be or become breast cancer.
However, a technical issue dating back to 2009 and only identified in 2018 was responsible for some women in England missing out on the last of their regular invitations for screening.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Government estimated that between 135 and 270 women had their lives shortened as a result of the failing.
Of the affected group, 309,000 women are believed to still be alive and will receive a letter by the end of May telling them they may have missed screening and inviting them for a checkup now.
Mr Hunt “apologised wholeheartedly” on behalf of the Government, NHS England and Public Health England for the failure.
He added: “As well as apologising to families affected, we wish to offer any further advice they might find helpful including a process to establish whether a missed scan was a likely cause of death and compensation is therefore payable.
“We recognise this will be incredibly distressing for some families.”
Samia al Qadhi, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: “Hundreds of thousands of women across England have been failed by this appalling error and some have had their lives shortened as a result.
“It is shocking that almost a decade has passed before this mistake was discovered. Women affected and their loved ones will be left reeling, both scared and confused. The number one priority now must be to ensure that they get all the support and information they need.”
How can Gotelee help?
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 subsequent 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.
A delay in diagnosis may be due to negligence, including misinterpretation of test results, failure to notice or respond to a specified set of symptoms, or a failure to refer the patient to an appropriate specialist or hospital for further investigation or treatment. In that situation, there may be the basis for making a claim.
If you think you have been affected by delayed diagnosis or another form of medical negligence, contact Diana Infanti on 01473 298180 or email [email protected]