A hospital trust has admitted causing a 12-month delay in diagnosing a patient’s liver cancer and agreed an out-of-court damages settlement with his widow.
The patient, from Hampshire, was under the care of Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust for liver disease but was not recalled for vital blood tests and scans as he should have been in January 2018.
Further appointments were then missed in May and November before he was admitted to the Queen Alexandra Hospital as an emergency in May 2019 with abdominal pains.
It was subsequently found that he had a 3cm tumour and bleeding in his liver and he then underwent surgery at Southampton General Hospital in August of that year to remove the cancer.
He was readmitted to hospital later that month with sepsis, and the cancer later retuned. Soon after he was told he had around a year to live, and he died on New Year’s Day in 2021, aged 86.
Breach of duty admitted and damages agreed
As part of a delayed cancer diagnosis legal case led by Hudgell Solicitors’ medical negligence team, it was alleged the Trust had breached its duty of care in failing to recall the man for a hepatology follow up appointment in January 2018 to check his liver.
It was also claimed that had he been recalled on that date, an ultrasound and blood tests would have been performed which would have identified the cancer.
The Trust admitted these allegations, and that further reviews were missed where ultrasound scans should have been carried out in May 2018, November 2018 and May 2019, leading to a 12 month delay in diagnosis.
However, despite admitting the tumour would have been significantly smaller had it been spotted in January 2018, it insisted an earlier diagnosis would still not have enabled treatment to prolong the patient’s life.
The Trust offered a five-figure damages settlement for its failings, which was accepted by the man’s widow, avoiding the need for the case to be heard in court.
‘He was upset at being let down, but got on with life’
The man’s widow, who had been with him for four decades, said that although he’d been upset by the delayed diagnosis, and the reality that it was incurable, he continued to ‘live life to the full’.
She said he began the legal action to ensure she had compensation to fall back upon after he died.
“My husband was upset when he was told the cancer should have been spotted earlier and he certainly felt he had been let down, but he was the kind of person who took everything in his stride and lived for every day, so he looked to the future” she said.
“He said to me that he couldn’t do anything about it or turn back the clock, but that he wanted to take legal action because he wanted ensure there was something financially for me for when he was gone. That’s what he has done. It’s not a huge amount, but it helps to cover the cost of things and I’ve put some aside as well.
“We were a strong couple together, as we were so close and we were always there for one another. It gives me comfort to know that in his final months, even though he knew he was dying, that he was happy and content with life. He had no regrets.
“I can remember in 2020 him being told by his doctor that he may not see next Christmas, but he did, and he had another birthday too. He fought to the end and also fought to ensure I was left in the best possible position too.”
Delays in cancer diagnosis ‘can have a huge impact on success of treatment’
Solicitor Shauna Page, of Hudgell Solicitors, led the claim for compensation against Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust and said: “The Trust admitted the cancer should have been diagnosed around 12 months earlier, which surmounted to a breach of their duty of care.
“Although it denied that this delay had an impact on the treatability of his cancer, it was without doubt a serious error as the patient was not recalled for three separate six monthly assessments, and in many cases, a 12 months delay of cancer diagnosis can make a huge difference with regards the likely success of treatment.
“We are pleased that the Trust admitted its failings in this matter and agreed a settlement with our client out of court. It is important in cases such as this that lessons are learned within the Trusts to prevent such mistakes happening again in the future.”
Delayed cancer diagnosis claims
Every delay in cancer diagnosis and treatment is a risk to a person’s health and potential recovery; these delays are unacceptable and they can also be a breach of duty of care.
In many cases people whose treatment for cancer is delayed have less favourable outcomes and a higher risk of dying.
Our delayed cancer diagnosis solicitors have supported hundreds of clients and their families, providing expert legal support to question and challenge the care they received and securing damages for the impact it has on their lives.
Find out more here: Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Claims