Doncaster Office
Sheffield Office

Medical Negligence- England’s Cancer Care still behind the best

24 January 2019

Robert Clarke

medical negligence

Last year BBC News shed light on England’s ranking in terms of cancer care. As a country we have failed to close the gap on the best-performing nations when it comes to cancer care despite 20 years of trying.

The review by the Health Foundation of the government’s record between 1995 and 2015 said that despite four strategies setting ambitious goals, the NHS was still lagging behind the best.

It was also said if services were improved, 10,000 lives could be saved each year. Ensuring earlier diagnosis was key.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, a former government cancer tsar who led the review, warned patients were finding it too difficult to get access to the tests and scans.

“Although progress has been made, the aims of all these strategies have not been achieved.”

What is the government doing?

Sir Mike welcomed the fact the government had promised extra funding to end medical negligence, this being an extra £20 billion a year by 2023- and that cancer would be a key focus for that.

Currently only half of cancer sufferers receive diagnosis. This showcases medical negligence now.

Recently Prime Minister Teresa May promised a new strategy to ensure that three-quarters of cancer patients are diagnosed early.

Sir Mike called for more to be done to raise awareness amongst the public of the signs and symptoms to look out for. Research shows people in the UK are sometimes reluctant to come forward when they are showing signs of cancer.

He said the NHS needed to look at new approaches, pointing to research showing people at high risk of lung cancer could benefit from a new form of screening for the disease by using low-dose CT scans.

The Department of Health and Social Care said improving early diagnosis was a “key priority”, pointing out from next year a new 28-day target for diagnosis would be rolled out.

How far behind is the NHS?

Survival rates are on the increase. Back in 2000, 62% of patients survived for at least a year. By 2015, this proportion had risen to 72%.

The Health Foundation highlighted the UK’s performance against five other nations – Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

This was done for six key cancers – colon, rectum, breast, lung, ovarian and prostate.

For each, the UK has remained in the bottom two since 2000 for five-year survival. Only on breast cancer has it actually closed the gap with the best. However, five-year survival has increased from 42% to 53%.

What is the problem?

Sir Mike talks about the “tight gate-keeping” in the NHS.

Meaning that GPs are under pressure not to refer too many patients, while the NHS do not have enough equipment or staff to carry out all the tests and scans it ideally should. He said that tackling this would require major investment.

GPs refer nearly two million patients a year for urgent tests and scans – nearly four times the number they did over a decade ago.

But the rise in referrals has coincided with long waiting times, with the NHS now struggling to meet its targets due to medical negligence.

And despite the extra numbers being referred, one in five cases are still diagnosed via an emergency presentation in places such as accident and emergency units.

Patients diagnosed via this route are less likely to survive as the cancer has been diagnosed late.

Sir Mike said services had also been undermined by the 2012 Health and Care Act, which led to regional cancer specialist groups being scrapped as part of the wider shake-up of the health service.

He said this had prompted lots of experienced professionals to leave the NHS.

It is very disappointing to discover how much medical negligence happens in the UK is lagging behind other nations and not performing as highly as we would have thought. Ultimately should you ever be concerned about the extent to which medical treatment has been received appropriately please do contact us at Taylor Bracewell, Robert Clarke can efficiently help to guide you through a range of complex negligence and compensation matters, providing clients with professional support, empathy and understanding.

If you would like more information about medical negligence or would like any other expert compensation advise, please do not hesitate to contact Robert Clarke, Compensation Solicitor, on 01302965402 or alternatively you can email