An independent audit of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has found that senior managers at the Trust were aware of cancer diagnoses going undetected due to a back log of thousands of x-rays.
If a patient is suspected of having cancer one of the first investigations that will be undertaken is an x-ray. The x-ray is then reviewed by a radiologist, or radiographer, and a report of the findings is prepared to assist decisions on diagnosis and further investigations that may be required.
In 2014, a report was forwarded to the senior managers at Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust identifying the backlog of cases. Around 30% of the backlog cases were reviewed which identified three missed diagnoses of lung cancer and 20-30 possible cases of cancer.
Despite the concerns, there was no public announcement until a whistle-blower raised the issue in 2016. This led to two investigations being undertaken, one by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and another by Worcestershire Healthwatch. Both investigations found there was no evidence that senior managers were aware of the backlog issue.
However, the recent audit identified management reports from 2014 that indicated this finding of the previous investigations was not correct. Both CQC and Worcestershire Healthwatch confirmed they had not seen the management reports at the time of their investigations.
Amy Greaves, an experience clinical negligence specialist based in our Birmingham office comments: “This audit of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust brings to the fore a number of troubling issues.
“Firstly, the fact that such a backlog could develop in the first instance. We act for a number of clients in relation to a delayed cancer diagnosis and it is well known that a timely diagnosis of cancer can have a huge impact on the ability to fight the disease and any delay could have devastating consequences for the patient.
“Secondly, the management committee at the Trust were aware of the issues in 2014. This is the year that the duty of candour, the need for NHS Trusts to be open and transparent with those that use their services, was introduced. To not disclose to the public, or later two investigators, the extent of management’s awareness of the backlog is in direct contradiction with this duty.”
If you are concerned as to whether you have received a delayed cancer diagnosis, please contact Amy Greaves in our clinical negligence team.