The journal Lancet Oncology recently reported that delays in treatment since March could lead to 3,500 avoidable cancer deaths in England in the next five years.

There have been many reports in the past of the NHS struggling to meet demand for services for cancer diagnosis and treatment and it is likely that the pandemic will have worsened the situation because patients were had their tests and treatment deferred because COVID-19 treatment was taking precedence.

Over time it may well be that there will be a steady increase of potential claims by cancer patients who believed that their condition deteriorated or led to worse prognosis as a result of the delays in accessing treatment.

It is unlikely that the trust could rely on a blanket defence that there were insufficient resources to deal with cancer related issues due to the pandemic. Each case will have to be looked at on its particular facts and what a reasonable body of medical opinion would have done in respect of treatment and investigations given the circumstances and facts known at the time.

So taking a simple example – if a patient presented with a lesion which was subsequently found to be a malignant melanoma it is highly unlikely that a successful defence could be run on the basis that it was reasonable to delay surgery to excise the melanoma because of lack of resources.

The position would be less clear where the patient presents with symptoms which a reasonable body of medical opinion would not interpret as requiring urgent or prompt investigation/treatment but subsequently turns out to be the case.

The nature of the presentation/symptoms at the time, range of potential diagnoses, the medical specialties required and location of services are all issues that would have to be taken into consideration.

One of our specialist clinical negligence solicitors can advise you as to whether you are eligible to make a compensation claim and explain the claims process with you at a free consultation.