NHS Litigation Authority Settles Claim for the Missed Diagnosis of Cancer

A woman from Swindon has received £50,000 compensation from the NHS Litigation Authority in settlement of her claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer.

In March 2009, the unnamed mother of two attended her GP complaining of a lump on the left side of her neck and a persistent dry cough. The woman was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat Department of the Royal United Hospital in Bath, where she underwent a CT scan.

The scan suggested that the woman may have cancer of the lymph nodes, but the biopsy sample taken to confirm the result of the CT scan was insufficient for a full assessment to be conducted. A review of the scan concluded that there was no need to conduct another biopsy and instead the hospital carried out an MRI scan on her neck.

Following the MRI scan, the woman was diagnosed with “idiopathic vocal chord palsy” – a weakness of the vocal chords that manifests in a persistent dry cough and a hoarse voice. However, in July 2011, the woman returned to her GP with an increase in size of her left cervical lymph nodes, and pins and needles in her left arm.

The GP sent his patient for an urgent chest X-ray and ultrasound scan of her neck. This time the woman was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that had spread into her neck and left shoulder and had to undergo six courses of chemotherapy. Fortunately the treatment managed to halt the spread of the cancer and the pins and needles disappeared.

Due to the distress she had experienced, the woman made a complaint to the Royal University Hospital. The hospital denied any failings in the standard of care she had received, so she sought legal advice and made a claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer after an investigation commissioned by her solicitor detected a number of abnormalities on the 2009 scan.

In her claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer it was alleged that, if the cancer had been correctly identified in 2009, the disease could have been treated with hormone therapy and the woman would not have required chemotherapy. It was also alleged that the appropriate treatment in a timely manner would have cured the vocal chord palsy from which she still suffers.

The Royal United Hospital continued to deny its liability for the woman´s experience but, after issuing court proceedings, her solicitor was able to negotiate a £50,000 settlement of the claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer with the NHS Litigation Authority. Speaking after the claim for the missed diagnosis of cancer had been settled, the woman´s solicitor said:

“Despite our client’s experience, the defendant continued to deny that the failure of the radiologist to report the abnormalities in the MRI scan fell below an acceptable standard of care. This is disappointing but sadly, has become par for the course in clinical negligence cases, where the NHS Litigation Authority and its defendant solicitors refuse point blank to accept liability. However, we are delighted that we achieved a very good settlement for our client”.