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Tragedy of cancer care errors means fall in standards must be stopped

Cancer has quickly become one of the biggest health epidemics to have ever faced our country. The disease cuts thousands of lives short every year, with Cancer Research UK stating there are 450 deaths every day.

In the UK, generally our cancer care has been good and the mandated referral and treatment times have led to early diagnosis and prompt treatment.

However, when mistakes are made by doctors those opportunities are missed and families are left to come to terms with the fact that their loved one is now facing a much bleaker outlook. I am currently working on behalf of families who have sadly suffered serious errors in their cancer care and have seen the devastation it causes.

Challenging these mistakes can help to raise cancer care standards, as well as providing the compensation families need to cope financially in these situations. However, while raising awareness of individual cancer failures can lead to changes that protect other patients, what if nationally there is a bigger problem with cancer services buckling under the pressure and patients being diagnosed late as a result?

Unfortunately this is what has been claimed by Cancer Research in yesterday’s Guardian after an analysis of nationwide performance data. According to the article more than 130,000 patients a year are not receiving vital cancer treatment on time because hospitals are struggling with the growing number of people referred to them with suspected cancer. The impact of this is wide-ranging but Cancer Research has made it clear that as well as causing additional stress and anxiety for patients, some are having their survival chances cut.

With the terrible consequences delayed treatment can have, it is unacceptable for this number of patients to receive substandard care. Meanwhile with the number of people at risk of cancer growing due to lifestyle factors we could see this situation escalate quite quickly.

It is a complex issue and obviously reducing the number of cancer cases with education about healthy living would not only support hospitals but also allow more people to avoid this awful disease. But that’s going to take time to achieve and we can’t allow this deterioration of standards to continue in the meantime. There is the potential for too many lives to be destroyed. 

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