Delayed diagnosis of lung cancer at Guy's and Thomas' delivers devastating prognosis for mother and businesswoman | Fieldfisher
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Case Study

Delayed diagnosis of lung cancer at Guy's and Thomas' delivers devastating prognosis for mother and businesswoman

Sarah Kingsley Fried obtained a substantial settlement for a client who developed incurable lung cancer following failures by Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT).

In early 2019, Laura* had just turned 50. She was a busy and active business owner and mother. She led a healthy lifestyle and did not smoke. Around springtime, she developed a lung infection and was referred for investigations at GSTT. Although the infection eventually resolved, a chest X-ray revealed an unrelated nodule in her left lung. Laura feared the worst, particularly as her mother (also a non-smoker) had died of lung cancer aged 60.

However, following further scans over the summer, Laura received the good news that the nodule appeared to be benign. Her consultant advised that the further scans were 'very reassuring' but that for completeness he would arrange a follow-up CT in early 2020.

After the repeat scan, all went quiet. Laura followed up with her GP, but they had not received the results. Then a month later, the country went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Laura made several further calls to her GP throughout 2020 but was advised that all non-urgent cases had been put on hold. Laura was not overly concerned as the last things she had heard from her consultant were 'benign' and 'very reassuring'.

At the end of March 2021, Laura called her GP to enquire about a follow up scan. The surgery advised her to contact GSTT directly, which she did immediately. The consultant's secretary was initially confused, suggesting that Laura had been discharged, but she then called back asking her to come in for an urgent appointment.

Laura underwent a repeat CT scan which she reviewed with the consultant at the appointment. The change in the nodule was obvious, even to someone without medical training. It was lung cancer. Laura underwent surgical resection which sadly revealed that the cancer was even more advanced than the imaging showed. She was diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma with pleural metastases and 'little chance of remission'.

Laura was devastated. She recalls that the diagnosis was delivered in a very blunt and tactless way, on an open ward, with only a curtain pulled around for privacy. The surgeon told her 'you are just very unlucky'. Laura believed this until some months later when she requested a copy of her medical records.  She was shocked to read that the scan from early 2020 had been reported as suspicious, and that a recommendation had been made for discussion at the Lung Nodule MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) and biopsy of the nodule.

This recommendation was not followed up, and Laura did not hear from GSTT until she herself made contact a year later. 

Laura instructed Fieldfisher to investigate. Sarah analysed the medical records and instructed medical experts to report on the failings in Laura's care, including respiratory medicine, oncology and radiology. Sarah then sent a Letter of Claim to GSTT alleging that:

  • There was a negligent failure to follow up the recommendations of the 2020 scan; 
  • But for that failure, Laura would have undergone surgery a year earlier and her cancer would have been cured.

GSTT responded admitting that the 2020 scan should have been followed up but arguing that surgery a year earlier would not have made any difference to Laura's prognosis.  

Laura's case was extremely complex on the medical evidence. Detailed analysis of the radiology and medical literature was required to determine how far the cancer would have progressed if it had been removed a year earlier. Sarah worked closely with the medical experts and with barristers Michael Deacon and Robert Kellar KC from 1 Crown Office Row

In light of Laura's prognosis, Sarah made an application to the Court for trial to be listed as soon as possible. A timetable was agreed for the exchange of expert reports and witness statements.  

Alongside preparing the medical evidence, Sarah obtained detailed witness statements from Laura and her husband detailing the impact of the negligence.  

Laura endured brutal side effects whilst undergoing chemotherapy and immunotherapy at GSTT.  When this failed to stop progression, she fought hard to find alternative treatments, and participated in groundbreaking Phase 1 trials at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute. After a year of good results, she eventually suffered further progression, leaving her no choice but to return to GSTT for aggressive chemotherapy. She suffered increasing pain, breathlessness and exhaustion, plus the devastating mental and emotional impact of her diagnosis. 

The vast majority of Laura's claim was comprised of loss of earnings, both during her illness, and in future years lost due to the negligence. Valuing the loss of earnings was not straightforward as Laura had her own business, with project-based income which varied year to year.   

Laura's claim also included sums for treatment and therapies including psychotherapy, alternative medicine, and palliative care. Expert reports were obtained in psychiatry and nursing. 

Laura's claim was listed for trial in March 2024. A month prior to trial, a substantial settlement was negotiated, which will help relieve the significant financial pressure caused by Laura's illness and provide her with peace of mind regarding her family's future. 

Laura said:  

"I was initially uncertain if I even had a case, but as soon as I approached Fieldfisher I was taken seriously and listened to with patience and understanding, the very thing lacking in my experience with Guys St. Thomas's.   I decided to appoint Fieldfisher to act on my behalf, on a no-win no fee basis. I was then assigned Sarah Kingsley Fried as my legal representative. I immediately felt in safe hands. 

Sarah has a wealth of professional knowledge and experience in dealing with medical negligence, yet she brings with it a wonderful empathy and sensitivity, which helped me always feel at ease. She was brilliant at explaining complicated medical and legal terminology in a way that was easy to understand. 

The case was not a quick process and meanwhile, I was balancing gruelling treatment, running my business and family life and adjusting to the huge shock of a late-stage cancer diagnosis. Sarah was endlessly patient and supportive as we prepared my witness statement whilst diligently pushing things forward with the Trust and keeping me updated every step of the way.

I feel extremely lucky to have selected Fieldfisher and to be represented by Sarah, both of whom went above and beyond to prove there had been negligence and to secure the best settlement possible. 

While no amount of money can compensate for the misdiagnosis and the subsequent devastating prognosis, the funds do mean I can pay for additional palliative care and give me peace of mind knowing my family will be provided for."

Contact us

For further information about delayed diagnosis claims and medical negligence claims, please call Sarah Kingsley Fried on 0330 460 6815 or email


All enquiries are completely free of charge and we will investigate all funding options for you including no win, no fee.

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