A delayed or wrong diagnosis occurs when a patient’s condition is missed by a medical professional and they are only correctly diagnosed some months or years later.

In the financial year 2020/21, nearly £258.5 million was paid out by the NHS for delayed diagnosis or wrong diagnosis clinical negligence claims in England.

The majority of claims brought for a delayed or wrong diagnosis between the years 2017-18 – 2020-21 related to the speciality of Emergency Medicine. The delayed or wrong diagnosis caused a number of primary injuries, with the top 10 being:

  1. Unnecessary pain;

  2. Fatality;

  3. Additional or Unnecessary Surgery;

  4. Cancer;

  5. Fracture;

  6. Poor Outcome;

  7. Advanced stage cancer;

  8. Psychiatric/Psychological damage;

  9. Bowel Damage or dysfunction, and

  10. Nerve damage.

In the current climate, we are even more aware of the increased pressures on the NHS and the services they provide. During the pandemic, operations and outpatient appointments were cancelled and GP surgeries moved to a telephone triage service, rather than face to face appointments. Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic is now coming to light and there have been countless cases of missed opportunities to diagnose patients.

Delayed diagnosis claims can arise in the following circumstances:

  • A GP failing to refer you for specialist review or further tests;

  • An incorrect reporting or failure to report test/scan results;

  • Failure to prescribe the correct medication;

  • Where you are ‘lost to follow-up’ and despite being under the care of a medical professional, you are not sent for further appointments or tests;

  • A misinterpretation of your symptoms resulting in an incorrect diagnosis.

The above is not an exhaustive list and actually, claims involving delay cover the whole range of professional healthcare practices, including doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and opticians.

The result of a delayed or incorrect diagnosis is often that a person is left with reduced treatment options and serious cases can result in fatality. It may be that a fracture is not identified and you are left with malunion and a requirement for further surgery, or it could be a delayed diagnosis of cancer where the cancer has now spread and can only be treated palliatively.

In order to bring a successful claim for clinical negligence, it must be proved that a medical professional breached their duty of care and that this directly caused a person to suffer a worse outcome. If you feel that you have been the victim of a delayed or incorrect diagnosis, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. There are strict time limits in which to bring a claim and your legal representative can discuss this with you in detail.

At Farleys, our experts understand that the consequences of delayed diagnosis are not limited to physical injury and financial loss, but also include psychological suffering. It can be incredibly difficult to come forward, however, our team will do everything in their power to ensure that you feel confident and fully informed at every stage of your claim.

If you need assistance or advice regarding inadequate treatment or care, you can contact Farleys on 0845 287 0939 or by email and one of our medical negligence experts will be happy to help you.