Cancer X-ray Services Under Scrutiny Following Avoidable Patient Deaths


The Law Of… Interpreting Chest X-rays

Patients came to 'significant harm'. That was the damning verdict of Inspectors investigating a Portsmouth hospital where junior doctors were left to interpret chest x-rays, including those of people with suspected cancer.

Medical Negligence Solicitor, Alison Hills, examines this shocking disclosure and the subsequent call for a national review of NHS radiology services.

Portsmouth's X-Ray Scandal

The scandal broke when it was discovered that more than 20,000 x-rays had not been reviewed by a radiologist or appropriately qualified clinician at Portsmouth's Queen Alexandra Hospital. Following the revelation, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) stated it was reviewing radiology reports across the NHS in England.

Two incidents at the hospital led to the investigation. In both cases lung cancer had spread as a result of inadequately qualified doctors interpreting results as benign when abnormalities could clearly be seen.

Inspectors also found that between April 2016 and March 2017, 26,345 chest x-rays and 2,167 abdominal x-rays had not been reviewed by a radiologist or appropriately qualified clinician.

Unreserved Apology

As a result of these significant concerns, all NHS bodies have now been ordered to provide detailed information regarding x-ray review backlogs, turnaround times, staffing levels and the relevant procedures that are undertaken.

Professor Ted Baker from the CQC stated:

"When a patient is referred for an x-ray or scan it is important that the resulting images are examined and reported on by properly trained clinical staff who know what they are looking for. This is a specialist skill."

Following the outcome of the investigation, Portsmouth Hospital NHS Trust said it had made an unreserved apology to the families of three patients, two of whom died.

Can I Claim For A Missed Or Delayed Cancer Diagnosis?

The tragedy of avoidable deaths due to misinterpreted x-rays raises the question of whether these mistakes have been repeated elsewhere. Many will wonder if compensation is available to those who have been affected by such errors.

In cases of medical negligence, which relate to a missed or delayed cancer diagnosis, it needs to be proved that there has been a failure of care to the patient and that the outcome to their health is worse as a result of the delay.

How Long Do I Have To Make A Missed Or Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Claim?

Court proceedings must be issued within 3 years of the 'date of knowledge' (i.e. the date of diagnosis) or where a patient has passed away, 3 years from the date of death.

In the cases of minors, the 3 year period does not start until their 18th birthday.

Alison comments:

"It is of significant concern that Portsmouth Hospital failed to review over 20,000 x-rays in such a short period of time, which, as the CQC has quite rightly pointed out, could just be the tip of the iceberg as far as other NHS Trusts are concerned."

"Any delay in a diagnosis of cancer can have a devastating impact upon the patient and their family; in some circumstances resulting in a significantly reduced life expectancy or even death."

"The actions of the CQC are certainly welcome to ensure that all NHS Trusts must now review the manner in which their radiology departments operate and report back. Hopefully this will reduce tragic situations such as those described in the investigation."

If you have suffered a delayed cancer diagnosis or the loss of a loved one as a result of clinical error, you may be entitled to compensation. To discuss your case in confidence, contact our Medical Negligence department today.

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