Mistakes by Imperial College NHS Trust may have led to delays in diagnosing cancer

July 6, 2012

Posted by: Suzanne Trask


Hundreds of patients thought to have cancer may have suffered a delay in receiving life-saving treatment, after mistakes by London’s largest hospital Trust.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has uncovered errors in its record keeping, affecting up to 900 patients. Files on some patients were opened but not closed while others were duplicated.

The BBC reports that the Trust said it had not found any evidence that a delay in treatment had caused serious harm to patients. It nevertheless represents a serious lapse that had potential for causing significant injury to a large number of patients. This must not be ignored. It is likely that amongst 900 patients with suspected cancer, at least some of the patients who actually have cancer have suffered a delay in receiving treatment as a result of these administrative errors.

Patients with possible cancer diagnoses are entitled to a hospital appointment within two weeks of their doctor referring them. There are concerns that as a result of the errors, some people could have been waiting for many weeks.

A spokesman for the Trust said: “At present we are in the process of clinically validating all records that indicate that a patient may have been waiting longer than two weeks.” I sincerely hope that where this delay has occurred, affected patients are being given a hospital appointment at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Trust also say “We are seeking to validate around 900 patient records and have closed more than 300 records, as the majority indicated that patients have either received or are receiving treatment, or that the patient did not attend their appointment and their GP had advised there was no need for further follow-up.” This clearly fails to address the minority who fall into the category that have yet to receive treatment and there was a delay in them receiving this.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Trust are playing down the significance of this mistake, rather than holding their hands up and recognising that it could have life-changing consequences for a number of the patients involved and also their families.

I act for a number of cancer patients and their families in claims for compensation where there have been issues with the treatment provided. I therefore regularly see the consequences of a delay in diagnosis of cancer, which can be far-reaching and devastating. Mistakes such as this, which affect such a large number of potential cancer patients just should not and must not happen. Robustg mechanisms must be put in place to ensure this does not happen again.

Posted by: Suzanne Trask

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