Delayed diagnosis: can I claim compensation?

Thu 21st Jan 2021

Delayed diagnosis of a medical condition can lead to serious problems. Sharon Parsons of Coodes Solicitors’ Clinical Negligence team explains when you could claim compensation.

Many of the clinical negligence claims we pursue on behalf of our clients are the result of late diagnosis from a GP or other medical professional. This is typically when a doctor has missed a condition, which then delays treatment, causing the illness to progress and become more serious. In some cases, sadly, these have resulted in clients losing loved ones.

What is delayed diagnosis?

Delayed diagnosis, sometimes called late diagnosis, is when a patient’s condition is initially missed by a medical professional.

It could mean that your condition deteriorates from a stage where it may have been treatable to a point at which it is more difficult to cure. You may be left with irreversible complications and additional health issues. Late diagnosis can prolong the recovery period or, in more serious cases, reduce the patient’s life expectancy.

We have supported many people who have experienced a range of problems as a result of delayed diagnosis. Examples of some of the issues you could face in the event of a late diagnosis include:

  • The illness spreads to another part of your body without being detected
  • Delayed treatment causes your illness to be terminal
  • You are in more pain, or your symptoms worsen as a result of the delay
  • Your health deteriorates significantly because of the delay in treatment
  • You develop a more serious condition

Why is an early diagnosis better?

Time is crucial when it comes to identifying and diagnosing illnesses.

According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, a delay of just four weeks increases the risk of many cancers becoming terminal.

If caught in in a timely manner, with medicine as advanced as it is, people now stand much more of a chance of making a full recovery or living relatively pain free.

The sooner an illness can be diagnosed, the earlier doctors can start treatment.

Who is responsible for a delayed diagnosis?

From a legal perspective, there are a few people who may potentially have been negligent in their treatment towards you if your diagnosis is late.

Examples include:

  • A GP fails to refer you to a specialist who is better placed to investigate your symptoms and provide a diagnosis
  • A medical professional fails to respond to test results
  • A GP or other healthcare professional fails to refer a patient for treatment at a suitably early stage
  • A medical professional fails to prescribe medication
  • A GP or other health worker misdiagnoses a condition over a long period

    Delayed diagnosis can happen for any condition, but is particularly common with orthopaedics or cancers.

    GPs are usually the first port of call if we have worrying symptoms. If the GP fails to identify the symptoms of a serious medical condition, illness or infection, the condition is left untreated. In the case of a compensation claim, the GP may be found to have been negligent. This is often the case with cancer patients, as symptoms can be overlooked or assumed to be an alternative illness and which can become terminal if left untreated for too long.

    A report from the UK Lung Cancer Coalition found that, in some parts of England, more than half of people who get lung cancer are not diagnosed until they go to A&E with serious problems. Those people are five times more likely to die within 12 months than those whose symptoms were picked up earlier and their cancer diagnosed by their GP or the NHS cancer screening programme.

    What are my options if my diagnosis was delayed?

    Medical treatment takes time to become effective and this can take its toll on you both physically and mentally. When that treatment is delayed, your condition could worsen as a result of the additional time and the stress of this can also impact your wellbeing. You have also experienced the financial pressures of being unable to work. When this happens as a result of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.

    If you have suffered problems as a result of a delayed diagnosis, you may be able to claim compensation to help you to get your life back on track. This could help you recover some of the costs you are likely to have faced if as a result of your illness being extended.

    Sharon Parsons is an Accredited Litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. For advice on any of these issues, please contact Sharon in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team at Coodes Solicitors on 01326 213033 or

    Thu 21st Jan 2021

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