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Are Cancer Treatment Delays at Colchester endangering patient safety?

Clinical Negligence Solicitor Paul Sankey reports that The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has identified concerns at the care given to cancer patients at Colchester General Hospital........

In a small sample of 61 care records reviewed it found that 22 patients – more than one third – had been subject to delays, putting their health at risk. The CQC also reports that staff has been pressurised into changing data to improve statistics for waiting times.

These reports give rise to real concerns. The first is that some cancer patients are not receiving treatment as quickly as they should. Patients with cancer are faced with a frightening condition and know that they need to be treated quickly. Delays increase their anxieties. Worse, they can reduce the chance of a good outcome. In reality delays of a few weeks are unlikely to make much difference in most cases but the CQC has identified delays of over 3 months which is enough for some cancers to develop significantly. Further if the Trust’s performance statistics are inaccurate it will not know how and where it is failing patients. Care will not improve if no one identifies the problem.
We already know that the UK does not perform as well as some of its European neighbours in the diagnosis and management of cancer. A number of studies have shown that cancer is often diagnosed here later than it could have been. Although there have been a number of improvements particularly in relation to breast cancer in recent years, diagnosing and treating cancer quickly and successfully is a priority. Here at Slater and Gordon we have experience in dealing with Cancer Claims, including Late & Misdiagnosed Cancer Claims.
Our own experience in handling Clinical Negligence Claims for patients who have suffered errors in managing their condition suggests that there are a number of areas where things go wrong. The most common errors we see are:

  • Delays in management, sometimes because of clerical or other errors;
  • GPs failing to refer patients for investigation; (GP Negligence)
  • Misinterpreting x-rays, MRI scans or other radiological tests;
  • Mistakes in examining biopsies and tissue samples.

For some patients the consequences can be tragic. For all they cause additional stress and anxiety in addition to the sheer difficulty of coping with a difficult diagnosis and unpleasant treatment. The concerns therefore at problems in Colchester are therefore particularly unwelcome when better management of cancer should be a priority.