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Cancer delay claims set to soar as a result of COVID

  • Published: Thursday February 4, 2021
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Delay in diagnosis of cancer is the third largest cause of medical negligence cases in the UK.  The cost of such claims has increased by 72% over the five years leading up to 2015/16 and it is estimated to reach £2.6 billion a year by 2022.

On 16 March 2020, cancer screening, routine diagnostics and outpatients were all cancelled prior to the UK COVID lockdown which began on 23 March 2020. With over 4 million people already on waiting lists, the NHS was already struggling to treat cancer patients before the pandemic hit and current estimates are that these numbers will more than double due to the delays caused by COVID. Unfortunately some patients will have had vital tests and treatment postponed due to lockdown restrictions, many will have sadly seen their condition deteriorate as a result and some will even have had their diagnosis delayed due to all of the disruption.

The Lancet Oncology journal recently predicted that delays in treatment and diagnosis of cancer since the start of the UK lockdown in March 2020 could lead to around 3,500 avoidable cancer deaths in England within the next five years with an estimated 60,000 lost years from patient’s lives. This is likely to lead to a surge in clinical negligence cases relating to delayed diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the years to come. Graystons’ Director, Julie Grayston, has said that “the problem will be whether the decision was correct at the time that treatment should stop or that people shouldn’t go to hospital. I think the fundamental issue is that the decision was made without any individual discussion to weigh up the risks of delaying treatment”.

What is yet to be seen is whether the courts will allow such claims or whether the NHS will be able to successfully defend them by arguing that in order to deal with the COVID pandemic, many NHS resources had to be redirected which meant that it was reasonable for other services to suffer.

If you, or a loved one’s cancer diagnosis or treatment has been affected due to COVID, please contact Graystons Solicitors on 0151 645 0055 to see if we can help you.