Clinical negligence highlighted amid cancer blunders report

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Posted 31/03/2010

The extent to which NHS patients have suffered from clinical negligence with regard to cancer has been highlighted by a new report.

A study by the National Patient Safety Agency looked at cases over a one-year period in 2007-08 and found at least 1,650 incidents in which people had been the victims of errors such as mixed-up tissue samples and misdiagnoses.

It was found that 177 patients suffered unnecessarily as a result, while two died. In one case, a woman was told she had mastitis three times before eventually being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

The authors said the research “revealed a range of safety concerns along the cancer diagnostic pathway”.

Peter Walsh of Action Against Medical Accidents told the Guardian that misdiagnosis of cancer is “a huge issue” which is not being “given the priority it deserves”.

Sandra Patton, a clinical negligence specialist at Ashtons Legal, comments: “We are regularly instructed by cancer patients who have been misdiagnosed, only to find out eventually that the disease has progressed so that their treatment is therefore much more extensive or, in the most tragic cases, they have lost the chance of a cure.

“Very worryingly, in a number of our cases it is clear that, if we had not been approached by the patient, the fact of their misdiagnosis would not have been revealed even though it was known to the hospitals concerned. I do wonder therefore whether the full extent of the problem is known”.

Statistics from Cancer Research UK show that more than one in three people will develop some kind of cancer in their lifetime, with breast cancer being the most common form of the disease.


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