Skip to content
Medical Negligence

Rise In NHS Cancer Misdiagnosis Payouts

Record numbers of NHS cancer patients are claiming compensation for misdiagnosis and late diagnosis. Payouts have soared to £35.9 million. Read more…

cancer diagnosis

Cancer Compensation Claims Increase

Record numbers of NHS cancer patients are claiming compensation after doctors failed to diagnose their condition in time. Payouts have soared from £21.7 million to £35.9 million in just three years.

Last year alone there were 319 payouts – a 76.2% increase compared with 2020. Typical damages are now around £110,000.

Claim Compensation For Cancer Misdiagnosis – No Win No Fee

Why Are More People Suing The NHS?

The NHS strives to provide the best care possible. But it is always short of funding. And there are issues with the way that it is run. As highly experienced medical negligence solicitors, we know all too well that the NHS can be defensive – despite duty of candour legislation.

Traditionally, many people have been loath to sue the NHS because it is seen as a national treasure. Its clinicians work in the face of ever more difficult conditions. We can all quote examples of when the NHS has performed admirably and quite rightly deserved our gratitude.

But it is becoming all too obvious that the system is breaking.

There is some hope. Waiting lists fell during the last three consecutive months of 2023. But at 7.6 million in December 2023, they were not much better than at their peak (7.7 million, September 2023). Put simply, the waiting list rose from just over 2.3 million in January 2009 to at least treble that in 14 years.

And the public’s patience is running out. Just 24% of people said they were satisfied with the NHS in 2023. They point to long waiting times and worrying staff shortages. 

Against this background, it’s no wonder that people are now more likely to sue. Most have no alternative. Especially in these challenging economic times.

Why Does The NHS Keep Misdiagnosing Cancer?

Diagnosing cancer is complex so mistakes can and do happen. More training, more funding and better management could help to stop this. We would all rather the NHS got it right more often. 

For patients who have suffered due to such errors, suing the NHS can help to fund swift private treatment and support their families. Litigation also makes improvements in patient care more likely. NHS trusts don’t want to make the same tragic and costly mistakes again. Though sadly, they do – we know from experience.

Here are some of the most common reasons for missed and delayed cancer diagnosis…

Symptom Overlap with Other Conditions

Cancer often presents with non-specific symptoms that can easily be mistaken for other, less serious conditions. Symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss or pain can be attributed to common ailments or lifestyle factors – leading to initial misdiagnosis.

Resource And Staffing Limitations

The NHS often operates under significant resource constraints. There may be limited diagnostic tools, overwhelmed facilities or shortages of specialised staff – especially in rural or underserved areas.

Diagnostic Complexity

Despite advances in modern technology, diagnosing cancer is not always straightforward. Each step involves complex decisions. Misinterpretation of diagnostic tests or underestimation of risk by even the most competent doctors can lead to errors.

Communication Failures

Effective communication among different healthcare providers (GPs, specialists, radiologists) is vital. Miscommunication can lead to critical delays – for example, if a specialist’s recommendation is misunderstood or not followed up promptly.

Patient Factors

Sometimes, patients delay seeking medical advice due to fear, lack of symptoms, or other priorities. When patients do present late in the disease course, it can be challenging for even skilled practitioners to catch up. This leads to advanced stage diagnosis – reducing the chances of survival.

Guideline And Training Variabilities

Medical guidelines are continually updated as new research is published. Doctors need ongoing training to keep pace with these changes. However, if this training does not reach all providers equally, some may not use the most current standards – leading to mistakes.

Systemic Issues And Human Error

The NHS – like any large organisation – can have systemic issues that lead to human error. Fatigue, high patient volumes and administrative burdens can all contribute to the risk of an oversight.

Can I Claim For Late Diagnosis Of Cancer?

You must satisfy the following grounds for your medical negligence claim to be successful:

  • Breach of duty – the clinicians have failed (by act or omission) to provide medical treatment to a standard that would be considered acceptable by any responsible body of clinicians in the field in question.
  • Causation – if we establish breach of duty, we then need to go further and demonstrate ‘causation’ of additional injury that would not have occurred ‘but for’ the breach. We must prove that you suffered a worse outcome because of the breach. In terms of a cancer claim, a delay may have stopped the clinicians from ‘curing’ the cancer – allowing it to grow or spread, shortening your life expectancy. Or perhaps the delay prevented better management of your symptoms – so you suffered more pain as a result.

No Win No Fee Medical Negligence Claims

A No Win No Fee agreement – also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) – is commonly used for medical negligence claims, including those involving misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cancer.

No Win No Fee makes medical negligence claims affordable. You pay your solicitor only if the claim is successful. The maximum payment is 25% of the damages for injury and past loss, plus an insurance premium (see below). If the claim does not succeed, you pay nothing.

Before embarking on a claim, the solicitor will often advise you to take out an After The Event (ATE) insurance policy. This policy covers any adverse costs or disbursements (such as experts and court fees), should the claim be unsuccessful.

The solicitor will then proceed with the claim – gathering evidence, consulting medical experts, negotiating with the other party, and possibly going to court. Most claims never go to court – they are settled beforehand by negotiation – sometimes at a round-the-table meeting or by mediation.

Get Expert Legal Advice On Injury Compensation Claims

For more information, contact Coles Miller Partner David Simpson, Head of Medical Negligence. He has been a solicitor since 1989 and a Partner since 2009. David is a Senior Litigator and a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

He specialises in complex, high-value medical negligence claims. In 2011, he recovered £1 million in damages for a client. His specialisms include cases of Cauda Equina Syndrome (damage to nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord).

David has helped clients to claim compensation for:

  • severe brain injuries (£737,519)
  • cauda equina (£550,000, £165,238)
  • delayed diagnosis of breast cancer (£375,000)
  • delayed diagnosis of cervical cancer (£250,000)
  • surgical errors (£200,000).

Latest Articles

Renters Reform Bill Update: When And How Can I Evict Tenants?

Renters Reform Bill Update: When And How Can I Evict Tenants?

Abolition of Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions is going through Parliament. Learn what that means for you – and why you should act now.

New Maternity And Paternity Leave Protection For Employees

New Maternity And Paternity Leave Protection For Employees

Employees on maternity/adoption/shared parental leave now get extra protection. New fathers can now take time off work more flexibly. Read ...

Rise In NHS Cancer Misdiagnosis Payouts

Rise In NHS Cancer Misdiagnosis Payouts

Record numbers of NHS cancer patients are claiming compensation for misdiagnosis and late diagnosis. Payouts have soared to £35.9 million. ...