Delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment: what are your rights?

Mon 18th Mar 2024
Delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment: what are your rights?

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people receiving a delayed cancer diagnosis and start to treatment has risen significantly. Unfortunately, 4 in 10 cancer patients will wait too long for urgent treatment. During the pandemic, some patients stopped having their treatments altogether meaning many lost loved ones. Since 2020, at least 225,000 people have not had vital cancer treatment in time.

At Coodes, we are seeing increasingly more clients approaching us to carry out delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment investigations. These people have suffered as a result of having to wait too long for urgent and vital treatment post-Covid.

That is why we support the ‘Catch up with Cancer’ campaign which is urging the Government to catch up with cancer. Julie Hatton, Partner and clinical negligence specialist at Coodes, explores this issue and explains what your legal rights are regarding delayed cancer diagnoses and treatment.

Delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment: the post-pandemic problem

1 in 2 people get cancer in their lifetime so most of us know someone who has had cancer.

During Covid-19, cancer services took a huge hit as cancer screening programmes were paused and as a result backlogs for screening and treatment rose considerably. This meant that patients were either receiving a delayed cancer diagnosis or delayed treatment. Since then, cancer services have not recovered.

In December 2023, only 65.9% of cancer patients in England started their first treatment on time, within 62 days of an urgent referral. Currently, the UK is facing cancer waits which are the second worst on record, with no plan in place to tackle this.

This is important because cancer patients need to be treated on time. In fact, for every four weeks of delay, the risk of death increases by 10%. Time is important which is why there are treatment times in place.

Catch up with Cancer Campaign

The Catch up with Cancer Campaign is urging the Government to boost cancer services and ensure cancer patients receive quicker and better cancer treatment.

During the pandemic, when the delayed cancer diagnosis and treatments were skyrocketing, experts already sent out a warning. They warned that 35,000 cancer patients could die unnecessarily as a result of the impact of the pandemic on cancer services.

The campaign is calling for an emergency response across all available cancer treatments with extra resources and with the same amount of energy and focus as was deployed against Covid-19. In particular, treatments like radiotherapy to be boosted and set free from the bureaucracy that is holding it back. 

If clinical negligence has meant that your cancer was misdiagnosed or that your diagnosis was delayed you may be eligible for compensation. While the NHS is a valued and treasured national institution it is not beyond reproach and when its agencies and employees fail to deliver the standard of care that we expect they need to be held accountable, especially when the consequences are severe and life changing.

You usually have up to three years from the date of the discovery of your cancer to start a clinical negligence claim for cancer misdiagnosis.

If the claim is for your child, you have until their 18th birthday to make a claim on their behalf. After this it becomes the responsibility of the child to make the claim, with the three-year limit starting when they reach the age of 18. If they lack the ‘capacity’ to handle their own affairs, the time limit does not apply. Similarly, if the cancer misdiagnosis claim is on behalf of an adult incapable of handling their own affairs, the limitation does not apply.

Claims with Coodes

At Coodes, we have seen an increased number of clients asking what their legal rights are in the face of delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment claims.

Our Clinical Negligence team is one of the leading practices in the South West, supporting clients throughout the region and beyond in bringing successful claims against the NHS for clinical / medical negligence.

If you think you’ve been waiting too long for a cancer diagnosis and/or treatment, we may be able to give you a helping hand. Get in contact with our team at

We recommend that you contact us as soon as possible, so that our clinical negligence lawyers can explain the process of claiming compensation, start your claim and help you access any other support and/or rehabilitation you need.

Mon 18th Mar 2024

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