County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust has paid out £1.1 million in damages for cancer misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis over the last five years.

An investigation by Medical Negligence Assist (MNA) found that County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has seen 23 claims and incidents lodged against it since 2019.

The group found that NHS trusts across the country have paid millions in claims in cases related to cancer treatment failure, delays, and misdiagnosis.

The findings of MNA's FOI requests made to NHS Resolution showed that the trust had closed or settled 13 claims and paid out £1,116,564.

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Caring for patients where there is a suspicion of cancer or where cancer has been diagnosed is one of our top priorities. 

"When concerns are expressed we have robust processes in place to undertake thorough investigations and are open and honest about learning and any changes which may be required to ensure the safety of our patients.”   

Rob Behrens, England’s Health Ombudsman has warned cancer patients could be at risk, and stressed the need for safe and effective care within the NHS.

He said: “Patient safety will always be at risk in environments that are understaffed and where staff are exhausted and under unsustainable pressure.”

Head of Medical Negligence at MNA, Nick Banks said: “Whilst claiming against medical insurance agencies can seem daunting, such claims are the best way to ensure funding is made available for all of the patient’s short-term and longer-term needs. 

“This can make a real difference to how quickly that patient is able to regain their former quality of life.

“Bringing such claims can also help the medical profession to identify important areas of improvement, hopefully ensuring that no future patients ever fall victim to the same mistakes.”

The situation is further reflected in NHS England’s data which shows that only 74.2 per cent of patients urgently referred for suspected cancer in December 2023 received a diagnosis or had cancer ruled out within 28 days, failing to meet the 75 per cent target. 

Data obtained from a series of Freedom of Information requests to NHS Resolution found that the trust is ranked 11 in the UK to pay out the highest amount in damages for such claims.

Figures for NHS Trusts with less than five claims lodged against them were grouped together. A total of 709 of these were closed or settled and amounted to an NHS damages pay-out of £87,426,652 in the past five years. 

MNA found seven claims and incidents were received by NHS Resolution between 2019 and 2020 against the trust.

A further seven were lodged between 2020/21, as well as seven more in 2022/23.

It said the NHS has paid £128m on claims of this nature in the past five years.

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Claims were made on issues such as; ‘Failure to interpret X-Ray,’ Failure to Follow-up Arrangement,’ ‘Failure to act on abnormal test results,’ ‘Wrong diagnosis.’  

County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust has been asked for a comment but has so far not provided one.

MNA's report also found that South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust ranked 20th, while South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust came in at 28th.

According to the group, the NHS has paid £77.7 million in claims for delays in cancer diagnosis in the past five years.

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