Professional negligence highlighted within cancer treatment sector
A new report has revealed the shocking medical negligence behaviour that NHS patients have to suffer and endure, whilst in hospital.
A professional negligence study produced by the National Patient Safety Agency looked at cases over a one-year period in 2007-08 and discovered that at least 1,650 incidents.
Such circumstances include patients who have received personal injury due to medical blunders from misdiagnoses and mixed-up tissue samples.
Overall the report highlighted 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.
Peter Walsh of Action Against Medical Accidents said that misdiagnosis of cancer is “a huge issue” which is not being “given the priority it deserves”.
This becomes clear, especially after the report exposed that 177 patients suffered unnecessarily as a result of negligence, to which two patients died.
In one case, a woman was told she had mastitis three times before eventually being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. The report says: “When she was finally diagnosed, she had advanced breast cancer with extensive spread.”
The authors said the research “revealed a range of safety concerns along the cancer diagnostic pathway.”
Sandra Patton, a negligence specialist and injury lawyer stated: “We are regularly instructed by cancer patients who have been misdiagnosed, only to find out eventually that the disease has progressed so that their treatment is therefore much more extensive or, in the most tragic cases, they have lost the chance of a cure.
“Very worryingly, in a number of our cases it is clear that, if we had not been approached by the patient, the fact of their misdiagnosis would not have been revealed even though it was known to the hospitals concerned. I do wonder therefore whether the full extent of the problem is known.”
Woman wins compensation award
Just recently a female patient secured £1million in a medical compensation claim, after she was left with permanent health problems because medics did not spot her cervical cancer.
The 31-year-old had a smear test in 2001 and was asked back soon afterwards when it proved inconclusive. However, she was not called back but began to suffer from heavy bleeding whilst she was pregnant.
When the baby was born she had still not been given a satisfactory diagnosis and it was not until she examined herself and discovered a tumour in March 2004 that doctors realised she had cervical cancer. It was too late to save her fertility and she now also has a string of health problems including trouble with her hips, bowel and bladder.
Therefore, Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust awarded her £1 million in compensation and has apologised for the suffering she has been caused.
Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp, who heads the Medical Injury team at a lawyer firm, commented on the settlement: “This very large award reflects the severity and duration of [her] pain and suffering. It is hard to see how patients can better protect themselves in these tragic situations as they are very much dependent on being accurately informed of test results.”
She added that guidelines should be set into place to prevent future negligence: “Although costly, it might be better if patients were informed of all test results rather than, as can happen, only the ones that require action. This would ensure that at least all results were looked at for reporting to patients before being filed or lost in the system.
“If national guidelines were in place with time limits for results being given to patients, then patients could ring and chase. At present it is entirely in the hands of the trust that employs the laboratory technician and those responsible for reporting adverse findings - the patient is pretty much in the dark and, as here, that can have serious consequences,” she said.
Statistics from Cancer Research UK show that more than one in three people will develop some kind of cancer in their lifetime, with breast cancer being the most common form of the disease.