During the “lockdowns” in the UK many things have been put on hold such as Court hearings, waste collection, engineers’ appointments, the list goes on and on. Whereas a cancelled engineer’s appointment may be inconvenient, a cancelled hospital appointment may be fatal.
During the pandemic many non urgent and cancer operations and treatments were put on hold.
It is reported that the All Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy, is calling for urgent investment to boost NHS capacity so staff can treat and diagnose more patients.
Chairman Tim Farron said: ‘We are deeply concerned the Government has underestimated the scale and severity of the Covid cancer backlog.
‘Without extra capacity, the backlog will not get cleared for many years and thousands of loved ones will die unnecessarily.’
The MPs say 50,000 patients are thought to be living with undiagnosed cancer due to disruption caused by Covid-19.
‘This figure could rise as high as 100,000 by the time we emerge from the pandemic,’ their letter says. ‘The question is not whether we should save Covid patients or cancer patients… we can and should be able to save both.’
The problem is that many people with symptoms have been unable to attend their GP except by video, resulting in misdiagnosis. Many more have had operations and treatments postponed because of the pandemic. The Daily Mail has reported a tragic case of a young lady who sadly died because her condition was misdiagnosed during a telephone GP appointment.
Young mother Miss Smith had her chemotherapy for bowel cancer paused for three months in the first lockdown.
Meanwhile, Miss King – who was at first told she had sciatica – was not able to see a doctor in person or offered any tests, and died a week after her diagnosis.
The journal Lancet Oncology last week predicted that delays in treatment since March could lead to 3,500 avoidable cancer deaths in England in the next five years.
Individual media reports of cancer patients suing the NHS are just the tip of the iceberg, the Gazette has been told. Mary Smith, a Bristol-based medical negligence expert with Novum Law, said that even before the pandemic, the NHS was struggling to meet the demand for services, with over four million people on waiting lists. Current estimates are these numbers will more than double.
‘The pandemic has created a “perfect storm” in which patients have had their tests and treatment deferred,’ said Smith. ‘Many have found their condition has deteriorated or their prognosis is much worse as a result, while others have put off accessing the vital services they need.”
At the same time, sympathy and admiration for the NHS could be deterring legitimate claims of clinical negligence, new figures suggest. Peter Walsh, chief executive of the patient charity AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents), warned that positive sentiment may also tempt legislators to pass more restrictive measures on making claims.
Figures released by the Compensation Recovery Unit show 8,839 clinical negligence claims in 2020 – a 45% fall on the previous year.
Some of that drop will be attributable to logistical issues caused by the pandemic, but Walsh suggested sympathy for the NHS had stopped some potential claimants from coming forward.
It is inevitable that claims, which are reported to have fallen during the pandemic, will shoot up again in my view. The current admiration for the NHS will not last if there is an onslaught of claims. Unfortunately for many it will be hard to prove causation and their claims will fail. We ask, is it time to bring in a no fault compensation scheme or will the government extend immunity from suit for claims arising from the pandemic?
In our view, there is only one solution- mediation. We are not currently on the official NHSR panel of mediators however. So, over to them!