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Paul Sankey: Bowel Cancer Death Rates

Recent research has provided a mixed bag of results for the treatment of bowel cancer in the UK. Cancer Research UK found that outcomes vary very widely across the country, different hospitals achieving widely varying standards.
For instance apparently your chance of dying within 30 days surgery for colon cancer is 2% if you are treated in Central Manchester, but 10% at the Whittington and 15% at Burton. This regional variation is alarming. It is hard to imagine that it could be anything to do with the condition of the patients. It is more likely to reflect better care in some areas and worse care elsewhere.
The background however is that death rates are generally falling. This is probably because of better training, advanced techniques including key-hole surgery and better after-care. However we do know that outcomes from many forms of cancer are not as good in the UK as in many similar European countries, which suggests that there is still some way to go.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. It is crucial to diagnose it early for the chance of a good outcome. I am only too aware of the consequence of getting it wrong. My colleagues and I are working on several cases where people have died after failures to diagnose the condition. In one very sad case, GPs intended to make referrals on 3 occasions but because of administrative errors the letters were never sent. By the time the condition was diagnosed, the woman was already terminally ill.
So it is crucial to do better. One source of hope is a national screening programme. Professor Mike Richards, who oversees cancer care in the UK, is confident that this will result in more improvement in bowel cancer management that any other form of cancer over the next 5 years and let us hope he is right.Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.