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Medical Negligence

Claiming Medical Negligence Compensation For Smear Test Errors

Errors in cervical screening smear tests can be fatal or life-changing. Delayed diagnosis reduces the chances of surviving cancer. Read more...

Claiming Medical Negligence Compensation For Smear Test Errors

Devastating Consequences Of Smear Test Negligence

Cervical screening smear tests are crucial in the battle against cancer. So when a smear test goes wrong, the consequences can be fatal or life-changing. Delayed or incorrect diagnosis reduces the chances of surviving cancer.

No amount of money can compensate you for a medical error that results in your early death. But it can help to safeguard the loved ones left behind – especially if you are the sole or primary provider.

Errors In Cervical Screening Smear Tests

A smear test, also known as a cervical screening test, is a routine procedure used to detect abnormal cells on the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. It involves the collection of cells from the cervix using a small brush or spatula.

These cells are then examined under a microscope. While smear tests are generally safe and effective, there are ways in which they can go wrong and lead to clinical negligence compensation claims:

  • Failure to detect abnormalities: One of the most common ways in which a smear test can go wrong is if abnormalities are missed during the examination.
    This can occur if the clinician carrying out the test does not collect enough cells or if the sample is not properly prepared for examination.
    If an abnormality is missed and goes undetected, it can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment, potentially resulting in more severe health consequences for the patient.
  • Misinterpretation of results: This can occur if the sample is not properly prepared or if the results are not properly read and interpreted by the healthcare professional.
    If abnormal cells are misinterpreted as normal, diagnosis and treatment could be delayed.
  • Delay in diagnosis: You may not have been told the results of the smear test quickly enough. Or there could be delays in follow-up appointments or referrals to specialists.
    A delayed diagnosis can have serious consequences, as it can allow the disease to progress and become more difficult to treat.
  • Failure to refer for further investigation: If abnormalities are detected during a smear test, the patient should be referred for further investigation and treatment.
    Failure to refer the patient can result in a delay in diagnosis and treatment, again possibly leading to more severe health consequences for the patient.
  • Negligent treatment: In some cases, a smear test can be carried out correctly but negligence may occur during the treatment process.
    For example, if a biopsy is taken during the examination and there is negligence in the way it is carried out or the results are misinterpreted, this can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment, or even unnecessary and harmful procedures.

If you have experienced any of these or any other problems during a smear test, you may be entitled to compensation for medical negligence.

For more information, book a free chat with a medical negligence solicitor.

Get Legal Advice Promptly Because Of the Time Limit

There is a time limit on medical negligence claims. It is generally three years from the date of the incident or the date that you became aware of the negligence causing significant injury. This is known as the limitation period.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the person bringing the claim lacks the mental capacity to take legal decisions, there may be no time limit.

In addition, the court may allow the limitation period to be extended beyond the usual three years in certain circumstances. We can ask the court to use its discretion under the Limitation Act 1980. Defendants know this – they can back down when we tell them that an application to extend the time limit is likely to be successful.

It is best to bring a medical negligence claim as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to gather evidence and build a strong case. In addition, the physical and emotional impact of the negligence may be greater the longer you wait to address it.

£250,000 Compensation After The Death Of A 29-Year-Old Mother

Coles Miller helped to secure £250,000 in damages for the son of a 29-year-old mother from Kent. She died of cervical cancer after a smear test recommended by her GP was not carried out.

The victim, then aged 21, had phoned her GP. She reported bleeding, dizziness and severe abdominal pain. Three days later she attended the surgery in person. Her symptoms included abnormal bleeding with heavy clots.

After two more appointments, she was advised to have a smear test. Some three months later, the patient arrived for her test – but the practice nurse refused to carry it out, allegedly because the patient had failed to meet certain criteria.

Around two years later, the victim moved house and registered with another GP. She attended the surgery on a number of occasions and complained of bleeding and lower abdominal pain.

The patient had a smear test which showed abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. She was referred to the colposcopy clinic for an urgent appointment.

Biopsies were taken after two areas in the cervix caused concern. The patient had an MRI scan which revealed a large tumour. She started chemoradiotherapy.

The victim said that – had the original smear test been carried out as planned – then her condition could have been treated much sooner with a laser or diathermy (a procedure involving production of heat through the use of high-frequency electric currents).

The victim underwent extensive surgery, was confined to a wheelchair and died at the age of 29, leaving a then seven-year-old son.

How The Compensation Claim Was Handled After The Victim’s Death

The medical negligence claim was brought by the executrix of the dead mother’s estate. The executrix took legal action on behalf of the mother’s son and the estate. The claimant alleged that the defendants – the first GP and his practice nurse – were negligent in their treatment of the victim.

Allegations against the GP included claims that he:

  • exposed the victim to the development of cervical cancer
  • failed to consider a local treatment that could have prevented the development of cervical cancer
  • failed to take any or adequate care of the patient
  • failed to provide medical treatment to the proper standard of practice accepted by a responsible body of medical opinion
  • failed to carry out a full pelvic examination as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
  • failed to keep adequate medical records.

Allegations against the practice nurse included claims that she:

  • exposed the victim to the development of cervical cancer
  • failed to take any or adequate care of her
  • failed to provide medical treatment to the proper standard of practice accepted by a responsible body of medical opinion
  • overrode the decision of the GP
  • exercised her own discretion in refusing to undertake the smear test despite the referral from a doctor and despite the victim’s symptoms.

The executrix agreed to a £250,000 settlement which was approved by order of the High Court. Under the terms of the order, the money had to be paid within 21 days of the court’s approval.

More Than 43,500 Women Did Not Get Smear Test Letters

In November 2018, it was revealed that 40,000 women did not receive information about cervical cancer screening. This was due to a mistake by an NHS supplier.

Around 4,000 of these letters were test results. Between 150 and 200 of these related to abnormal test results. However, the women should have received other letters from their GP or screening clinic as a backup.

At the time, the NHS said there was no evidence that any women had suffered any harm. But a spokesperson for the British Medical Association, the professional organisation for the UK’s doctors, described the failure as “frankly appalling”.

And then in December 2018, it emerged that a further 3,591 women had not received information about cervical cancer screening. The supplier responsible admitted the error, apologised and began disciplinary action. The senior manager responsible for the contract left the company.

No Win No Fee Compensation Claims For Smear Test Negligence

Coles Miller undertakes medical negligence claims on a No Win No Fee basis so there is no financial risk to you. This allows you to pursue your claim without having to pay any upfront legal fees.

No Win No Fee – also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) – ensures that you will not be required to pay any legal fees in the unlikely event that your claim is unsuccessful. If you do not win your case, you will not be responsible for paying your solicitor’s fees.

Get Expert Legal Advice

For more information, contact Coles Miller Partner David Simpson who leads our team of medical negligence solicitors. His specialisms include mismanaged labour (injuries to babies and mothers), ectopic pregnancies, Cauda Equina, appendicitis, surgical errors and vascular complications. He is based at our Poole office.

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