Missed NHS early cancer diagnosis targets will impact lives | Fieldfisher
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Missed NHS early cancer diagnosis targets will impact lives

Jane Weakley

The medical negligence team at Fieldfisher is regularly instructed to represent clients following a delayed cancer diagnosis. Generally, our clients' lives have been turned upside down by errors in detecting and treating their cancer, impacting their recovering and potentially their life expectancy.

A recent report from charity Cancer Research UK warns that NHS England is not on track to meet its 75% early diagnosis target by 2028. Currently, almost half of cancers are being diagnosed at a late stage, when treatment options are much more limited and patient prognosis is graver.

The report calls on the UK government to take bolder action in order to reduce the cancer mortality rate by 15% by 2040. 30 years ago, the UK was on a par with other comparable countries in its approach to improving cancer outcomes. In recent years though, the UK has begun to lag behind whilst countries such as Denmark race ahead, an impact which Cancer Research UK attributes to the UK's lack of consistent funding and long-term strategy.

In its report, the charity says that the UK government must commit to investing in cancer prevention, equipment, facilities, NHS staff and research otherwise the UK's hard-won progress will undoubtedly stall. The report suggests 5 missions which the UK should undertake to achieve its goals of reducing the cancer mortality rate and preventing 20,000 cancer deaths per year, including addressing preventable causes of cancer such as smoking and obesity.

The report from Cancer Research UK emphasises the impact which diagnosing cancer in its earliest stages (stages 1 or 2) and minimising treatment waiting times for patients has on improving patient prognosis and cancer survival rates. Greater governmental investment in the NHS workforce, diagnostic equipment and increasing the availability of screening programmes is needed to secure better outcomes.

Jane Weakley and Gabriella Gooday recently secured a six-figure settlement on behalf of a client who suffered an 18-year delay of osteosarcoma in his forearm.

The Defendant Trust (Imperial College London Healthcare NHS Trust) admitted negligence. The Trust conceded that, had the Claimant been referred to a specialist case review 18 years ago then, on the balance of probabilities, the possibility of low-grade central osteosarcoma would have been raised and he would have undergone appropriate surgery without the need for chemotherapy. Instead, the Claimant went on to develop high-grade osteosarcoma, which required surgery and aggressive chemotherapy and he remains at risk of local recurrence or metastases in the future.

Read about our cancer misdiagnosis claims

Longer, better lives: A manifesto for cancer research and care (cancerresearchuk.org)