Lancashire hospital trust reveals death due to delays in cancer diagnosis and/or misdiagnosis

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Many of our local hospital Trusts denied the FOI request.

A Lancashire hospital trust has confirmed a patient has died to due delays in cancer diagnosis and/or misdiagnosis. 

In November last year, Cancer Research UK warned that the UK’s progress in treating the disease is at risk of stalling due to slow and late diagnosis coupled with treatment delays.

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In an investigation by Medical Negligence Assist, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were sent to every NHS Trust in the UK, uncovering the number of such fatalities between 2021, up to and including any instances in 2024.

Of the 124 NHS Trusts that were contacted, 71 per cent provided full responses to the requests for information - but only one in Lancashire did so.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust - which encompasses the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Furness General Hospital, Millom Hospital, Queen Victoria Hospital, Westmoreland General Hospital and Ulverston Community Health Centre - revealed one patient had died because of delayed or misdiagnosis of cancer during 2021-4.

What does the Trust say?

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Tabetha Darmon, Chief Nursing Officer, UHMBT, said: "We recognise that waiting for a cancer diagnosis is a worrying time for patients, and it is vital that patients with cancer are seen and treated as soon as possible.

"Where there's harm caused to a patient due to delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, a full investigation is carried out to understand what happened and what can be learned to reduce the chances of it happening again.

“Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, when it isn’t too large and hasn’t spread, is more likely to be treated successfully, so getting checked really does save lives. Anyone with unusual or worrying symptoms should visit their GP and take up screening appointments when invited.”

What did the others say?

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals  - denied the request under Section 38 of FOI act - due to concerns it may lead to identification. 

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Blackpool Teaching Hospital responded: "Unfortunately we do not have access to this data. The Cancer Register we can report from is primarily focused on treatment and will not indicate misdiagnosis or delay (and mortality is seldomly populated). To retrieve this information would require a manual trawl of patient case notes which would exceed 18 hours. This information is therefore exempt on the grounds of cost (Section 12(1))."

East Lancashire Hospital NHS Trust said: “The Trust is unable to provide a response to this FOI request as this information is not inputted into the system.”

Anyone registered with a GP as female will be invited for NHS breast screening every three years between the ages of 50 and 71.Anyone registered with a GP as female will be invited for NHS breast screening every three years between the ages of 50 and 71.
Anyone registered with a GP as female will be invited for NHS breast screening every three years between the ages of 50 and 71.

Missing targets

Recent NHS England data shows that only 74.2 per cent of patients urgently referred for suspected cancer in December 2023 received a diagnosis or had cancer ruled out within 28 days, failing to meet the 75 per cent target. 

This month, Cancer Research UK produced a report on the latest cancer waiting times in England saying: “Once again, the cancer waiting times published today represent unacceptable waits for cancer patients.”

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The Cancer Research UK report adds: “Behind every one of these missed targets are patients, friends, family and loved ones who are facing unacceptably long and anxious waits to find out if they have cancer and when they can begin treatment. “

Making a claim

Head of Medical Negligence at MNA, Nick Banks said: “Whilst claiming against medical insurance agencies can seem daunting, such claims are the best way to ensure funding is made available for all of the patient’s short-term and longer-term needs. This can make a real difference to how quickly that patient is able to regain their former quality of life.

“Bringing such claims can also help the medical profession to identify important areas of improvement, hopefully ensuring that no future patients ever fall victim to the same mistakes.”

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