Treatment has been delayed for millions of patients while the NHS has focused on managing the pandemic. GPs in many areas are still unable to refer as normal and it has been reported that even urgent referrals are being delayed. The NHS Confederation has warned that 10m people could be on NHS waiting lists by Christmas.
Cancer Research UK warned in May that 2.4m patients were waiting longer for scans or treatment because of disruption to services during the pandemic. The Medical Protection Society has urged the government to commit adequate resource and support to clear the backlog of referrals and delayed follow-ups.
Delays in treatment cover a wide range of issues and it could be that a patient does not receive prescribed medication, a laboratory test is ordered but not reported on, the patient is lost to follow up or a surgical operation is cancelled (perhaps on multiple occasions) and does not take place within a recommended timeframe.
Thankfully in the vast majority of situations a delay, whilst an inconvenience, will not result in any significant injury. Unfortunately in some situations time is however a critical factor because often the earlier a diagnosis is made and treatment commenced, the better the chances of a patient making a good recovery. If treatment is delayed, this can lead to permanent complications and health issues which could have been avoided. It is therefore imperative that delays are minimised and treatment and investigations categorised as urgent are prioritised, even in these challenging times.
By way of an example, you shouldn't have to wait more than 2 weeks to see a specialist if your GP suspects you have cancer and urgently refers you. In cases where cancer has been confirmed, you shouldn't have to wait more than 31 days from the decision to treat to the start of treatment. This is because early and accurate diagnosis and treatment can be critical.
A delay in diagnosis and treatment of orthopaedic injuries such as fractures can also have devastating consequences. It is critical that certain fractures, such as to the wrist or ankle are diagnosed without delay in order that they can be immobilised and surgery considered. Delay can affect how the bones heal and cause a permanent loss of function impacting upon all aspects of life including employment.
Contact our Medical Negligence Solicitors