It was recently reported that the NHS is facing a mass exodus of GPs in England. Official data was quoted showing that 23% of family doctors are 55 years or over and will be looking to retire within the next few years, with the average retirement age being 59 years old.
On top of this, other risk factors are driving doctors out of the profession, including burnout and the huge amount of pressure resulting from underfunding and Covid-19 pressures.
It is clear that something needs to be done to address this. Whilst the wellbeing of doctors is extremely important, it is patients that could pay the ultimate price for these alarming statistics.
With fewer doctors to see patients, appointments will become even more difficult to secure than they already are. This is a perfect storm for misdiagnosis and/or delayed diagnosis of various medical conditions.
An example of a condition where a delayed diagnosis could have tragic consequences is cancer. For most cancers, early diagnosis means a much better chance of recovery. Research published online in the British Medical Journal shows that people whose treatment for cancer is delayed by even one month have in many cases a 6-13% higher risk of dying. This risk continues to rise the longer the treatment is not commenced. Another study found that a ‘four-week delay in treatment is associated with an increase in mortality across all common forms of cancer treatment’.
Cancer screening services are available through the NHS in the UK, however, they are appropriate for people who do not present with any symptoms. Patients with symptoms are asked to contact their GPs. Here lies the problem presented by the statistics above. Patients rely on their GP to pick up on the fact that they are presenting with cancer symptoms and to then take the appropriate action in the form of various tests and referrals. This is the patient’s main route for accessing the healthcare that they so desperately need. For most patients, by the time the symptoms are severe enough to warrant a trip to the Accident and Emergency services, it is often too late as the cancer is at a very advanced stage.
Another condition where early detection is crucial is diabetes. This is because the condition needs to be monitored and managed very carefully. Patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of many other conditions including high blood pressure, kidney disease, increased risk of stroke and heart disease, nerve damage, several eye conditions and blood vessel conditions which could result in amputations.
There are many other conditions that, if not diagnosed at an early stage, are likely to result in a poor, life-changing or even fatal outcome for the patient including heart disease, cauda equina syndrome, meningitis, pulmonary embolism caused by deep vein thrombosis and acute intermittent porphyria.
There is no doubt that our doctors need to be supported much more and that the core issues above need to be addressed but patients must always be protected. If there are failures in the system and mistakes made however, a legal claim can offer more than just compensation but also, access to private care, support and rehabilitation.
The medical negligence team at Bell Lax Solicitors has a wealth of experience in helping people who have suffered from a delayed diagnosis/treatment.
Our medical negligence team understand the magnitude of the physical and psychological impact that negligent treatment has on individuals and their families. We are committed to helping you to obtain the answers you need and to secure the best possible compensation award to help you live your life as best as you can.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding any treatment you have received, talk to one of our dedicated solicitors on 0121 355 0011.