Delays in cancer diagnosis as NHS under strain

  • March 22, 2019
  • Recent statistics released by the NHS in England show that only half of cancer patients are being diagnosed at an early stage and that nearly one in four patients have to wait longer than they should for treatment. These rates of diagnosis are the lowest since records began in 2009.

    Lisa Pammen (49) said she felt “let down” by the NHS after doctors failed to diagnose her with late-stage bowel cancer, despite her having visited her GP and the hospital for the past 18 months complaining of abdominal pains. She was finally diagnosed after being taken to A&E, by which time the cancer had spread to her ovaries and abdomen.

    Lisa described how she “was in intense pain and had a family history of bowel cancer and yet it felt like these things were being ignored”.

    She then had to wait three months before receiving treatment, whereas the NHS is supposed to commence treatment within two months, a target which has only been met in three months out of the past sixty months.

    Staff shortages putting the NHS under strain

    Commentators have indicated that staff shortages are one of the underlying causes of the increased delays. Sara Hiom of Cancer Research UK said: “The figures show an NHS under continued strain, with many patients still waiting too long to get a diagnosis and start treatment”.

    Dominic Bell of Macmillan Cancer Support also said: “I’ve worked on the support line for the last seven years and throughout that time we’ve taken more and more calls from people going out of their mind with worry while they wait for a diagnosis and treatment”.

    These issues are worsened by increased waiting times in A&E departments, with under 85% of A&E patients being seen within the first four hours in February 2019. The current target is for 95% of patients to be seen within four hours, though this target has not been met since July 2015.

    The NHS target tracker provided by the BBC allows you to see whether your local services are meeting their targets.

    Elizabeth Wickson, an Associate Solicitor from the Medical Accident Group said: “Receiving a cancer diagnosis is one of the most life altering events that a person may experience in their lifetime. It is concerning that the consistent delays reported in cancer patients being seen will potentially have a detrimental impact on treatment outcomes”.

    We deal with all areas of medical negligence including delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment. If you or someone you know has suffered a delay in diagnosis or treatment of cancer or have lost a loved one due to their condition not being managed correctly then please contact us. If you believe you have a claim, call the team now on 0800 050 1668 or email us at

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