The family of a patient who was not told the results of his cancer scan for more than 12 months have called for a radical overhaul of the current system to prevent people from having to wait so long for their results.
The Airdrie man was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2011. After undergoing an operation to have half of his large bowel removed, he had a follow-up scan in July 2012.
But it was not until September the following year, when the man’s family informed his GP that he still hadn’t received his test results that he learned his cancer had spread to his liver and one of his lungs.
Although he began chemotherapy in December 2013, he sadly succumbed to his disease in August last year.
After the man’s daughter complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman about her father’s negligent treatment, an investigation was carried out which strongly criticised NHS Lanarkshire for their failings in his care.
NHS Lanarkshire has apologised to the man's family and said it will ensure action is taken to address the issues raised.
The Scottish government has said it is considering introducing a deadline for patients to receive their test results. But, despite ministers setting targets in 2009 that no-one should have to wait more than six weeks for key diagnostic tests, by June this year, figures show that almost 6,500 had waited longer.
Diagnostic tests, including - radiology, endoscopies, ultrasound, and MRI and CT scans, are all essential for diagnosing serious illnesses such as cancer. But, while targets exist for arranging tests, there is no similar target for sending patients their results.
The Royal College of Radiologists say waiting times have risen because the current workload is "unsustainable." They say that although the workload of radiology departments has risen by 11-13% every year, this has not been matched by an increase in staff.
Notwithstanding the obvious problems with staffing levels and funding, it is an absolute disgrace that the Trust responsible for this patient failed to notify him of the results of his 2012 scan. To have to wait more than a year for your test results and only then because your family insist upon a check-up appointment that should clearly have occurred months earlier, is simply unacceptable.
As a result of this failing, this man’s family have to live wondering what may have been had the delay in diagnosing his disease not occurred. For the 14 months it took for him to receive his results, he could have been battling his disease with the appropriate treatment and the outcome may well have been very different.
Missed opportunities for diagnosis are increasing within the NHS and as this case so starkly illustrates, delayed appointments can have devastating consequences - not just for the victim, but also for their families and loved ones. I’m currently dealing with a case involving a patient who wasn’t told he had cancer until it had spread to his lungs and brain. Had the radiology review been acted upon, it is very likely his cancer would have been curable.
Karen Cathcart is a Clinical Negligence Solicitor with Slater and Gordon in London.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers help people who have suffered from delayed or wrong diagnosis of cancer due to Medical Negligence. For a free consultation call our Medical Negligence Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or start your claim online.