Delays in diagnosis of cancer attributed to shortage of pathologists

  • September 24, 2018
  • Background

    A census report carried out by the Royal College of Pathologists (RCP) has highlighted only 3% of NHS histopathology departments have sufficient levels of pathology staff. Histopathologists are doctors and scientists who diagnose and study diseases including cancer by analysing tissues and cells.

    Cancer Research UK estimates, that an ageing population will lead to the number of cancer related cases increasing by over 40% by 2035. RCP say the current trend will mean an increase in clinical demand for pathologists but inadequate numbers of staff to service this.

    Case study

    Marie Duffy, a mum-of-six died after doctors had failed to diagnose her cancer for 17 months. Last month Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust admitted to being at fault after doctors had failed to identify the cancer for nearly a year and a half.

    CT scans showed signs of colon cancer but Mrs Duffy was discharged from the hospital without any follow up appointment. She experienced months of pain and agony and was finally diagnosed with terminal cancer 17 months from her initial CT scan.


    Professor Jo Martin, a member of the RCP, has said:

    “The College is actively raising concerns about the threats to service delivery due to workforce shortages – those that exist now and those that are expected in the future. We are making practical suggestions for solutions both in the short and longer term”

    Existing NHS pathologists are having to increase their caseloads whilst the NHS is known to have spent £27mn on outsourcing and locums every year. RCP have proposed to solve the issues identified by:

    • having more funded training places;
    • improving in IT for day-to-day work;
    • capital investment to implement digital pathology more widely, so staff can work more efficiently and flexibly; and
    • developing advanced clinical practitioners to work alongside medically-qualified histopathology colleagues.

    What our specialists have to say

    Ally Taft, Partner from Medical Accident Group said: “Referrals for cancer are at their worst levels since records began in October 2009. The NHS has consistently missed its 62-day target with only 78 per cent of patients in England starting treatment within two months of being urgently referred by their GP.

    I have worked in clinical negligence for over 15 years and have experienced cases of delay in diagnosis and treatment for cancer patients far too often. It’s unfortunate that this can lead to months/ years of pain and suffering.”  

    As a highly experienced firm with expert teams based in Birmingham and Worcester, we have secured awards for many clients following negligent medical treatment. If you or a member of your family have suffered from poor medical treatment, Medical Accident Group can help. Our team of specialist medical negligence solicitors have over 30 years’ experience. We will guide you through the process of making a claim. If you believe you have a claim, call the team now on 0800 050 1668.


    Start your free consultation now

    NO WIN
    NO FEE
    Initial Consultation