What effect does delayed cancer treatment have?

It is well known that prompt treatment can make a significant difference to the outcome for cancer patients, increasing their chances of survival and limiting the likelihood of any long-term health consequences.

In many cases, treatments such as surgical removal of a tumour, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are only effective if they can be carried out before a tumour becomes too large or cancer spreads (metastasises) to other parts of the body.

Delays in receiving appropriate treatment for cancer can therefore mean cancer which might have been treated effectively becomes incurable, leading to the death of the patient. Even where cancer is incurable, fast treatment can significantly extend a patient’s life expectancy, often making a difference of months or even years.

Even where cancer is treated effectively, delayed treatment can result in a worse outcome for the patient e.g. the need for surgery that could have been avoided or other more aggressive treatments that can have lasting health consequences.

What causes delays in cancer treatment?

There are several reasons why cancer treatment can be delayed, including:

  • Patients not visiting their GP promptly with their concerns or for routine testing e.g. smear tests
  • GPs or other medical staff failing to recognise warning signs for cancer and thus not referring patients to hospital for appropriate testing
  • Hospital staff failing to carry out appropriate diagnostic tests or to correctly interpret test results or to ensure those tests results are acted upon
  • Delays in treatment being started following a correct diagnosis e.g. due to staff shortages

How common are delays in cancer treatment?

NHS England works to a target called the Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS) meaning people should have to wait a maximum of 28 days from referral by their GP to find out whether or not they have cancer.

There should also be a maximum of 62 days from when a hospital receives an urgent referral for suspected cancer to when treatment begins and no more than 31 days from when a treatment plan is agreed with your doctor to the start of treatment.

However, NHS figures show that in the 12 months to June 2018, 1 in 5 (20.8%) patients did not receive their first treatment within the 62-day time limit, equal to 27,246 people. This may be linked to understaffing in the NHS, with research by the Health Foundation suggesting that there are currently at least 100,000 vacancies at NHS trusts across England.

Claim compensation for delayed cancer treatment

Given how serious the health consequences can be, it is often possible to secure substantial compensation for negligent delays in cancer treatment.

While many people find the thought of pursuing compensation intimidating at what is already a difficult time, working with the right legal team can mean the process is relatively straightforward and stress-free for you.

A law firm specialising in compensation for delayed treatment will be able to guide you through the entire claims process, including gathering the necessary evidence and negotiating with the defendant to try to reach an out-of-court settlement.

This means you can usually secure compensation without the need to attend a court hearing, allowing you to get the support you need to rebuild your life with the minimum stress and hassle.

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