The number of cancer patients successfully suing the NHS for missed diagnoses has doubled in the past five years, new figures show.
The health service also paid out a record amount in negligence compensation for cancer misdiagnoses last year, according to the data.
The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) paid damages of £12.6 million to 152 people last year. The figure has risen year-on-year since 2013, when 46 pay-outs were made. In 2012, 59 pay-outs were made.
There was a total of 1,392 successful claims for all misdiagnoses in 2016, worth £152.5 million.
The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from NHS Resolution, shows that over the last ten years payments for a missed cancer diagnosis have been made to 990 people with a total payout of £75.7 million. The largest single sum was in excess of £1 million.
Simon Stevens said improving speed of cancer diagnosis is now the biggest challenge facing the NHS Credit: Stefan Rousseau/P
Sir Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive at Cancer Research UK, called on the government to train and employ more diagnostic NHS staff to help catch the disease earlier.
He said: “Diagnosing cancer early must remain a priority within the health service. The earlier cancer is detected, the greater the chance that treatment will be successful.”
A delay in diagnosis can often drastically reduce the life expectancy of a cancer sufferer as the disease may have spread.
Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, said last week that early cancer diagnosis makes a “staggering” difference to survival rates, with patients 18 times more likely to live when the disease is caught sooner.
He added that improving speed of cancer diagnosis is now the biggest challenge facing the service.
A study by the National Patient Safety Agency found the areas of the body most commonly associated with a delay in cancer diagnosis were gynaecological, skin, urological and breast.
Four hospitals have paid compensation more than eight times in the last three years over cancer misdiagnosis, including Northern Lincolnshire & Goole NHS Trust who paid out ten times and the Heart of England NHS Trust who were successfully sued nine times.
Lord Patel, Chairman of the House of Lords NHS Sustainability Committee, said that diagnoses of cancers needed to improve and that improved technology must be available so less mistakes occur.
“It is disappointing that the numbers have gone up. It is disappointing that there are still misdiagnosis occurring and the NHS needs to improve. Diagnostics are the key thing for the future of cancer diagnosis.
“Any litigation is bad news, any litigation related to misdiagnosis and therefore improving patient care is not good news, no matter what the level of it is.”
An NHS England spokesperson said: “With more people accessing testing, funding for effective new treatments and diagnostics, and continued action to reduce smoking, cancer survival is now at a record high.
“However, a big focus remains on early diagnosis, which is why the NHS continues to invest in new and innovative ways of catching more cancers early.”