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Medical Negligence Specialist Paul Sankey discusses Cancer Care throughout London Hospitals

Patient surveys for the quality of Cancer care given by NHS hospitals apparently rate 9 London hospital Trusts among the worse 10 in the country. Top of the list is Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs St Marys, Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals. Whipps Cross, Kings College and Princess Alexandra are also rated among the worst 5.
What should we read into these figures? Certainly anyone facing the stress and uncertainty of cancer care should be able to have confidence that they are getting good treatment, sensitively provided. But what would be useful to consider is why patients were dissatisfied. Often people’s complaints concern wasted time waiting around for appointments, staff being off-hand or not speaking English well and poor administration. It would be more worrying if their concerns feature medical errors in their management.
Common errors in managing cancer concern failures to make referrals, failures to carry out investigations and misinterpreting results. My colleagues and I have acted on numerous cases where, for instance, Breast Cancers have not been missed because a mammogram, ultrasound scan or biopsy has not been done, or Bowel Cancers where no one has thought to investigate by carrying our a scan or colonoscopy. In other cases abnormalities on x-rays or scans have been missed and biopsy results have been wrongly interpreted by pathologists. These are the really serious issues which can lead to people having worse outcomes from cancer than they should.
A couple of names in the list read as something of a surprise because they are generally regarded as centres of excellence. Others come as less of a surprise because we regularly handle claims against them. Some are clearly already taking steps to improve patients’ experience of cancer care and that is to be welcomed. However ultimately the quality of clinical care is key.
Rated by patients as the worst 10 in the recent Department of Health Survey:

  1. Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
  2. Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust
  3. King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  4. The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust
  5. North West London Hospitals NHS Trust
  6. University College Hospital London NHS Foundation Trust
  7. Newham University Hospital NHS Trust
  8. Ealing Hospitals NHS Trust
  9. Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
  10. North Middlesex University Hospital Trust

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