Advising with empathy and experience

Apology and improved systems follow cancer delay claim.

The CNCI team has successfully concluded a claim against a hospital trust in the North of England following failings in care that resulted in a delayed diagnosis of a urinary tract cancer.

The original Claimant, who subsequently succumbed to the cancer, initially attended her GP surgery with urinary symptoms.  She was referred to a local hospital to undergo further investigation.  The initial clinical suspicion was that the claimant was suffering from a urethral diverticulum but the preliminary clinical tests did not establish a clear diagnosis.  Further tests were arranged including, after some time, an MRI scan.

The MRI scan revealed the presence of a mass that was consistent with a tumour.

Sadly, there was any delay in the results of that MRI scan being communicated to the patient's treating consultant.  The significance of the scan results were only recognised several weeks later by which time the patient had already contacted the department asking for the results of the test.

The patient was subsequently referred on to a local specialist centre and underwent radical surgery in an effort to prevent the cancer from spreading.  Sadly subsequent tests revealed that the the cancer was already present in a number of lymph nodes.

The patient sought a second opinion in relation to treatment options from a specialist cancer centre but the underlying tumour was aggressive and did not respond to further attempts at treatment.

The patient sought advice about the legal position when it became apparent that the cancer could not be cured. Sadly, the patient died less than four years after the initial diagnosis. The patient's widower decided to continue with the claim on behalf of his late wife's estate and any dependents.

Medical evidence was obtained during the course of the claim.  This established that the tumour in question was very rare but also very aggressive.  The specialists were not critical of the initial working diagnosis or of the battery of tests performed.  Clinicians were however highly critical of the hospital for failing to act upon the results of the MRI scan and to expedite a referral to the specialist treatment centre.

A claim was submitted to the defendant hospital trust and thereafter dealt with by NHS Resolution.  NHSR admitted failings in care early in correspondence and acknowledged that these would have led to the claimant experiencing unnecessary additional pain, discomfort and distress in the period prior to diagnosis.

NHS Resolution put forward an offer in settlement of the claim before any court proceedings were commenced.  The deceased's family, who were primarily motivated by a desire to ensure that these circumstances should not be repeated, indicated that they would accept the initial offer provided that the defendant hospital trust could give them reassurances that the failings in care would not be repeated and that steps had been taken to prevent that this type of difficulty arising in the future.

The defendant hospital trust did subsequently issue a written apology to the deceased's family and confirmed to them that steps have been put in place at the trust to ensure that test results are recognised, reported and acted on in a timely fashion.

Speaking of the claim, Kim Daniells of the CNCI team said, "the failings in care in this case were really a failure of systems and processes rather than individual clinical errors.  We are pleased that the hospital has recognised the significance of those failings and the need to revise their systems accordingly.  We hope that the lessons learned from this very sad case help to ensure that the delays in diagnosis and treatment in this case are not repeated.  We would like to pay tribute to our client, who, despite his loss, insisted upon seeking a resolution to this matter that would benefit clinicians, patients and the NHS as a whole".