Macmillan Cancer Support has called for a change in NHS culture after discovering that the NHS Litigation Authority has spent a minimum of £100 million on cancer-related claims in the past decade.
A freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by Macmillan has resulted in the publishing of the £100 million figure which has covered compensation of delays, errors and inadequate care related to cancer in the last decade. The findings cover 1,860 legal claims which were made and settled against the NHS within the last eleven years.
The charity said that it was extremely concerned that the majority (66%) of successful claims completed over this time were from people who faced issues in either getting diagnosed or starting treatment who as a result suffered physical and/or psychological consequences.
Macmillan has said that politicians should all prioritise cancer care and commit to two specific pledges in their General Election manifestos. The first of these was to improve early diagnosis to match the best European cancer recovery figures. The second was to ensure that every cancer patient was treated with the highest level of dignity and respect and that NHS are supported to deliver the highest possible care.
“We must ensure that these rare but costly cases of legal action are kept to an absolute minimum,” said Jagtar Dhanda, head of inclusion at Macmillan.
“Macmillan knows that complex cancer treatment is not risk-free and unfortunately the occurrence of some errors is inevitable. When something does go wrong patients must be treated with dignity and respect from the moment they make a complaint.
“Patients say that when they raise a complaint they want someone to listen to them, for the problem to be resolved as quickly as possible, and with meaningful solutions so they receive the emotional and physical support they need. Sadly numerous inquiries into the complaints system show that too often this doesn’t happen. This can push people into feeling that resorting to costly legal action is the only solution they face,” said Dhanda.
Commenting on the findings, Mark Pickering, senior litigator & medical negligence team manager at Asons Solicitors, said: “These allegations are usually submitted on the basis of a failure to refer a person to an oncology specialist, whom would have been able to make a correct diagnosis following further investigation.
“The majority of cases focus on general practitioners or their practice staff. A person or the estate of the deceased can also bring claims for misinterpretation of scans or a failure to follow established screening programmes,” he added.