£35,000 Compensation for Delayed Diagnosis of Cancer

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Georgina Emsley

Solicitor, Medical Negligence

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A Medical Negligence Claim Case Study - Client Situation

Our client was suffering from squamous cell carcinoma of the left lip, which is a form of cancer. However, the cancer wasn’t immediately identified by doctors. As a result of this delay in diagnosis, commencement of the necessary radiotherapy treatment our client required, was delayed too. Ultimately, this left our client with a disfigurement and symptoms including:

  • Hoarse speech and dryness in his mout
  • Difficulty in moving his neck to the right as it was painful and pulled both his scars and his muscles
  • Reduced ability to taste which was rated at about 60% normal
  • The left hand side of his jaw was painful and sensitive to touch all the time which he described as a sharp pain that was aggravated by touch
  • Greater susceptibility to infection caused through the loss of his lymph nodes which means that he has been forced to cover up his neck to avoid infection
  • A need to eat slowly as he has a tendency to bite his tongue and lip

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is sometimes referred to simply as ‘SCC’. It is a form of non-melanoma skin cancer which is common and starts in the top layer of the skin. Usually, it can be treated.

SCC is mostly caused by ultraviolet light which comes from the sun. The NHS advise that if you have pale skin or have had skin cancer in the past, your chances of being diagnosed with a non-melanoma skin cancer is higher than average. Your age could also have an impact on this, together with the following factors: 

  • If your skin tends to burn easily in the sun
  • If you have red hair or fair hair
  • If you have blue eyes or green eyes
  • If you have a large number of freckles
  • If you have a large number of moles
  • If you have had a lot of sun exposure
  • If you have had sunburn a lot in the past
  • If you have used or do use sun beds a lot
  • If you have a history of skin cancer in your family

The risk of developing this type of cancer can be reduced, simply by being careful in the sun. This would involve the use of sun creams and making sure that you re-apply your protectant on a regular basis. However, the NHS advise that you can also do the following to reduce your risk: 

  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day
  • Keep your arms and legs covered
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat that provides protection against ultraviolet rays
  • Wear sunglasses that provide protection against ultraviolet rays
  • Use sun cream with a sun protection factor of at least 30
  • Use sun cream with at least a 4-star UVA protection
  • Make sure babies and children are protected from the sun

This type of cancer can usually be effectively treated, however the treatment you receive will depend on the type of skin cancer that you have, where the cancer is, whether or not the cancer has spread and your health generally/ whether you have any co-morbidities (existing health conditions that put a person at higher risk)  

The main form of treatment for this type of cancer is surgery which can be done in several different ways, including an excisional biopsy and cryosurgery. An excisional biopsy involves cutting out the cancer and some of the surrounding skin whereas cryosurgery involves freezing the affected skin which forms a scab that usually drops off a few weeks later.

Radiotherapy, targeted medicines, photo dynamic therapy and chemotherapy can sometimes be used too. In our client’s case, he had to undergo an invasive 10 hour operation from which he made a slow recovery, in addition to requiring radiotherapy.

Sadly, our client remains self-conscious of his appearance due to his disfigurement, which affects his confidence and ability to carrying out activities of day to day life.

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How We Helped

Our client approached Simpson Millar following his experience as he thought that he may be able to pursue a claim for medical negligence due to the delay by medical professionals in identifying that he was suffering from cancer.

We advised the client that we would be able to accept instructions for case, to try and obtain compensation for him. Additionally, our client was Polish and was therefore limited in his ability to speak English. We were able however to ensure that he understood all advice given to him as one of our paralegals Joanne Ziobro, also speaks Polish.

Joanne was an asset to this case as she was able to effectively communicate with the client in his first language and accurately translate all of the advice provided by the Clinical and Medical Negligence solicitor responsible for conduct of the case, David Thomas. Additionally, Joanne was able to assist David in undertaking investigations and generally managing the case to ensure that our client was getting the best possible service throughout the process. 

David and Joanne went on to obtain expert evidence from medical experts in Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) and Oncology. This evidence confirmed that the delay in our client receiving a diagnosis, ultimately led to his disfigurement (which would have otherwise been avoidable)

As such, they were able to robustly argue that this delay led to the failure to provide timely radiotherapy treatment. This then resulted in the disfigurement and the additional symptoms that our client would not otherwise have suffered had a diagnosis and subsequent action been taken sooner, and at the appropriate time.

David Thomas was able to prove with supporting expert opinion, that the fact earlier treatment wasn’t provided to our client had resulted in the requirement for more invasive neck surgery. This surgery then left an unsightly scar, which otherwise wouldn’t have been there. The NHS Trust sought their own medical evidence to determine whether this was an accurate opinion regarding the consequences of the delay.

It became clear during the NHS Mediation Scheme that the experts instructed by the NHS Trust were closer to the views of our own experts. We consider that one of the main factors in this was the quality of the experts we instructed, which meant that they were able to cover an extensive range of issues, including some finer issues and possible defences that may have been raised, which they covered in their reports.

The Outcome

After we presented the case to the NHS Trust, they admitted that our client should have been referred for radiotherapy sooner than he was but denied causation of injury. Essentially, they argued that even if they had referred our client for radiotherapy at the appropriate time, it wouldn’t have made any difference to the eventual outcome and our client would have ended up in the same position. They argued that as such, they shouldn’t have to pay any compensation to our client because the delay caused by them, hadn’t made any material difference to the outcome.

Following negotiations, the claim settled for £35,000 in compensation at the mediation hearing. The mediation hearing under the NHS Mediation Scheme enabled both parties to focus on and discuss the key issues at an early stage in the proceedings. This prevented a long, drawn out, stressful case for our client. It meant that he received his compensation sooner than he otherwise would have done.

The NHS also provided an apology to our client and agreed it would be taking steps to enforce change and learn from its mistakes. Our client got closure from this, and we hope that he will be able to use his compensation, paired with the apology in order to move forward with his life.

While financial compensation never fully restores what was lost, it will help get closure and give the individual an improved quality of life.

If you have been affected by medical negligence and wish to pursue a claim for compensation, you can contact our friendly and helpful team today on 0808 134 9990. Alternatively, you can request a call back here. We may be able to take on your case on a No Win, No Fee basis – just ask us about this and the different funding options available to you.


Simpson Millar LLP. (n.d.). Medical Negligence Solicitors. Retrieved from https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/medical-negligence-solicitors/ (Accessed: 18/12/2023)

NHS. (n.d.). Non-melanoma Skin Cancer: Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/non-melanoma-skin-cancer/treatment/ (Accessed: 18/12/2023).

NHS Resolution. (n.d.). Alternative Dispute Resolution. Retrieved from https://resolution.nhs.uk/services/claims-management/alternative-dispute-resolution/ (Accessed: 18/12/2023).

Georgina Emsley

Solicitor, Medical Negligence

Areas of Expertise:
Medical Negligence

Georgina is a Solicitor who works in our Medical Negligence team here at Simpson Millar, based in our Manchester office.

She is a committed and highly reliable Solicitor with a track record of supporting clients through the process of making a claim to achieve the best outcome for them. Georgina has experience working on many high-value cases with a range of circumstances and complexities from start to finish, where she reviews medical records, liaises with experts and gathers evidence in order to negotiate the best possible settlement for her clients.

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