Misdiagnosis: what is the scale of the problem?

Medical misdiagnosis continues to be a huge problem for patients and health trusts across the UK, backed up by some astonishing statistics. The expert medical negligence solicitors at Browell Smith & Co explain the issue.

Medical misdiagnosis is one of the most common types of clinical negligence claims we receive at Browell Smith & Co.

We have recently focused on issues caused by the misdiagnosis of sepsis and of strokes, but the problem is a wide-reaching one that affects a range of illnesses and injuries, so it’s worth looking at the wider picture.

A report in 2017 suggested that as many as one in six patients were the victims of a misdiagnosis of some kind. The report does point out that the majority of patients in these cases did not suffer from worsened symptoms or injury as a result, but it’s still a worrying trend and a by-product of an increasingly-stretched NHS.

Prostate cancer, for example, was recently confirmed to be an even bigger killer than breast cancer – yet a report from charity Orchid suggested that 37 per cent of prostate cancer cases were diagnosed late (ie at stages three and four). Raising general awareness of the symptoms would help, but people still tend to expect medical staff to spot the signs when patients present themselves for examination.

What kinds of misdiagnosis are there?

There are three kinds of medical misdiagnosis. The first is a complete misdiagnosis, where a condition is not diagnosed at all following health problems.

The second is a late diagnosis, in which the delay to diagnosis has prolonged the recovery time or worsened the prognosis.

Finally, an incorrect diagnosis means the wrong condition is diagnosed, perhaps leading to the wrong medication or treatment being given.

How much misdiagnosis takes place in the UK?

Because of the nature of the problem, not all cases involving medical misdiagnosis are reported. A report in 2012 claimed that errors were leading to the deaths of 1,000 patients a month; a separate report in 2015 put the number at 750 deaths per month.

In either case, the numbers involved are far too high – and these ones don’t include those patients who survived but have been left with life-altering conditions or requiring long-term care as a result.

Any kind of medical misdiagnosis has the potential to be very distressing for the patient involved.

What can you do?

If your health has suffered as a result of a medical misdiagnosis, then you are able to take legal action within three years of the mistake being made. However, in order to allow a clinical negligence solicitor time to investigate and progress a claim before the deadline, we tend to recommend that you speak to us within two years of it happening.

For many victims of clinical negligence, a compensation pay-out is not the main aim. They typically want to secure an apology for what has gone wrong, and they want reassurance that other people will not suffer in the same way.

Highlighting medical mistakes is the best way to ensure lessons are learned and that they will not be repeated.

How can Browell Smith & Co help?

At Browell Smith & Co, we understand the serious repercussions that a medical misdiagnosis can have for a patient. We have many years’ experience in dealing with such claims and can offer you a sympathetic ear to talk over your experiences and give you the best possible advice.

If you have suffered a medical misdiagnosis, you can find out more about our services here, or contact our expert team today to arrange a no-obligation chat at any of our offices, in Newcastle, Cramlington, Ashington and Sunderland, or alternatively by 0800 107 3000, to discuss your particular requirements.

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