When you feel unwell or like something isn’t quite right, you usually go to see a GP and receive an accurate, efficient diagnosis. Sometimes, further testing or meetings with specialists are required, but generally speaking, it’s a fast process to receive the correct diagnosis. This is largely due to the excellent standard of healthcare that is offered both by the NHS and in the private sector.
Unfortunately, some patients find that they have to wait a long time for a diagnosis, resulting in prolonged pain, discomfort, and unhappiness. Depending on the condition, it can even result in a shorter life expectancy, highlighting the importance of a timely diagnosis.
If you’ve experienced a delayed diagnosis and have endured additional harm as a result, you might be wondering what you can do and what the next steps are. Delayed diagnosis falls under the umbrella of medical negligence, and this means, under the right conditions, you could claim compensation for your undue suffering. Keep reading to find out more about how you can go about this.
What constitutes a delayed diagnosis?
A delayed diagnosis occurs when a medical professional overlooks a patient’s condition. Generally speaking, a delayed diagnosis often leads to a condition being diagnosed in a more advanced stage. For example, if you present to a healthcare professional with a number of symptoms that may be indicative of an issue, but they fail to join the dots or make the diagnosis until a later stage, this is a delayed diagnosis.
Depending on the condition that is being diagnosed, a delayed diagnosis could cause additional pain and suffering, lead to further complications, and even shorten your lifespan. It’s for this reason that delayed diagnosis constitutes medical negligence. This could be grounds for:
Is delayed diagnosis the same as misdiagnosis?
Delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis are both forms of medical or clinical negligence, but they’re not entirely the same thing. A misdiagnosis is when the wrong condition is diagnosed and the incorrect treatment is administered. Like delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis can be incredibly detrimental to a person’s health and have serious consequences.
Misdiagnosis can often occur when symptoms get confused with something else, whereas a delayed diagnosis tends to refer to symptoms being missed, ignored, or not attributed to a condition at all.
Common delayed diagnosis conditions
There are lots of illnesses and conditions that may be initially missed and diagnosed at a later stage, both physical and mental. Here are some of the more common conditions that are the subject of late/delayed diagnosis cases:
- Cancer (all types, including brain cancer, bowel cancer, and thyroid cancer)
- Heart disease
- Organ damage
- Bone breaks/fractures
This isn’t an exhaustive list of conditions, but it gives you an idea as to what may count as delayed diagnosis. If you’re unsure whether your condition and diagnosis fall under the delayed bracket, speak to one of our medical negligence lawyers on 0800 526 368.
What to do if you’ve been diagnosed late
Medical negligence cases can seem daunting because the thought of opposing medical professionals can feel wrong, but it’s important that those who fail to provide you with the level of care you’re owed, resulting in avoidable harm, pain, suffering, financial issues, and life-changing circumstances, are held to account. The aim of making a medical negligence claim isn’t to undermine the healthcare provider or facility – it’s to ensure further harm isn’t inflicted on others through the same mistake, and to recoup any financial losses you may have accrued due to being out of work or having to pay for healthcare provisions.
With this in mind, these are the steps involved with a delayed diagnosis medical negligence claim.
Make a complaint to the healthcare provider
The first port of call for most medical negligence claims is to make a complaint directly to the healthcare provider. There are complaints procedures in place for both public and private medical facilitators, although there is no legal obligation for you to go down this route, and it’s unlikely that compensation will be granted outside of lawful proceedings. That being said, making an official complaint detailing what happened is a good place to start.
If your issue is with the NHS, you can use the NHS Resolution service. If it’s with a private provider, they will likely have a similar process in place. You can also complain to the health service ombudsman or your local CCG group if you find the complaint response to be unsatisfactory. Like with a general complaint, this won’t result in delayed diagnosis compensation being granted. If this is your goal, you need to find a medical negligence lawyer and commence legal proceedings.
How to make a delayed diagnosis claim
There are a few steps involved with making a delayed diagnosis compensation claim, as outlined below:
1. Find a clinical negligence lawyer
Hospitals and healthcare providers have extensive legal teams who are experts in fighting medical negligence claims. For this reason, if you’re looking to make a successful medical negligence claim, you need to enlist the help of specialist lawyers who have experience in making medical negligence claims. At OH Parsons, our specialist medical negligence solicitors have decades of experience and have successfully represented thousands of patients who have suffered delayed diagnosis, making us well placed to represent you legally.
The second step is to grant your lawyers access to your medical records. You can request these directly from your healthcare provider. We will use these to determine at what stage a diagnosis should have been made for your medical condition based on your appointment schedule and the details of those appointments.
3. Letter of claim
All delayed diagnosis compensation claims start with your lawyer sending a letter of claim to the facility responsible for your delayed diagnosis. This informs them that the legal process has begun and gives them enough time to assess the case.
Following a letter of claim, the hospital or healthcare provider concerned in the case will undertake an investigation and report their side of the story. This can take some time, but sometimes, a resolution can be found at this stage if liability is admitted, with an offer of settlement sometimes enclosed. Be aware that this isn’t always the case, though.
The court expects both parties in medical negligence claims to do all they can to keep the case out of court, meaning your lawyers and those representing the medical provider will need to engage in negotiations if liability is contested. This can take months.
If communications and initial negotiations fail, dispute resolution needs to be engaged. This is, again, to keep the case out of court where possible. Through dispute resolution, a neutral third party will assist with the other two parties to ensure fair, balanced, and sensible communication is adhered to, with the goal of reaching a settlement.
The final resort in delayed diagnosis claims is to start litigation and go to court if a resolution cannot be found. This can take a long time and doesn’t happen in most cases, but you need to be prepared that there’s a possibility you could end up in court if all else fails. Your specialist medical negligence team will talk you through this process closer to the time, should this occur.
Your lawyer will do the majority of the leg-work for you, but it’s always useful for you to provide any notes, diaries, witness details, and medical records at the start of the process.
Medical negligence claims at OH Parsons
If you’re thinking about starting the claims process for a delayed diagnosis, get in touch with one of our medical negligence experts today. We offer a free consultation service whereby you can outline your case and one of our lawyers will determine whether you could be in a position to make a successful claim.
We operate on a no win, no fee basis and always strive to get the best result for every client because we understand the burdens that come with delayed diagnosis. Speak to us today to find out more.