The Pandemic has seen frontline doctors, nurses and support staff being stretched even more than they were. Before the pandemic, medical professionals in the UK had already been under pressure to deliver top notch medical services to millions of persons every year.
With the pandemic ravaging the country, the virus has commanded more focus and attention as medical professionals have been tasked to work tirelessly to treat critically ill coronavirus patients.
This has no doubt led to disruptions to healthcare delivery throughout the UK causing millions of patients who suffer other serious illnesses to experience treatment delays. During the peak of the pandemic, almost all elective surgery were stopped, there were delays to many outpatient appointments and referrals, and even screening and tests for medical conditions such as cancer, were paused, or even cancelled.
Impact Of Delayed Treatment
The impact of delayed treatment due to Covid-19 cannot be overemphasized. It has caused severe pain and suffering, avoidable harm, and risk to people’s lives.
For instance, patients with potentially life-threatening conditions have been severely affected.
These include persons with;
- Cancer of different types
- Cardiovascular disease
- Diabetes and diabetes-related complications
- Chronic kidney disease
- Respiratory disease
- Liver disease
- Orthopaedic issues such as hip and knee surgery
These and many more have suffered as a result of the disruptions to healthcare delivery occasioned by the virus.
According to Cancer Research UK, over 2.4 million people in the UK have not been able to undergo their earlier scheduled cancer screening and tests; while others have seen their cancer treatment truncated due to COVID-19.
Wendy Peake, a patient with a rare kind of eye cancer (ocular melanoma), has unfortunately seen her NHS clinical drug trial cancelled indefinitely due to COVID-19. She has now been forced to raise money herself to seek further medical treatment in a private establishment with her potentially life-saving cancer treatment halted.
Also, the British Medical Association (BMA) found out in a survey that more than 50% of doctors agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened medical care for patients who do not have the virus. The effects of delayed medical treatment can have lifelong impact on the health of the patient.
Here are some key statistics on NHS treatment delays due to the pandemic
Key Statistics From NHS Treatment Delays
|Almost 200,000 patients have been on the waiting list for routine NHS operations for at least one year||Source- (Independent, January 2021)|
|Over 650,000 cancer patients in the UK (22%) have experienced disruption to their cancer treatment because of Covid-19||Source- (Macmillan, October 2020)|
|The number of transplant surgeries in 2021 fell by 21% compared to 2019 due to the first wave of COVID-19||Source- (Independent, January 2021)|
|The number of heart operations expected to be carried out in England from January to November 202o, fell by 33%.||Source- (British Heart Foundation, January 2021)|
|The number of patients waiting over one year for specialist treatment in the NHS has risen by 137% compared to 2019||Source- (BMA, January 2021)|
|The COVID-19 enforced treatment delays meant that about 600,000 cervical cancer smears failed to go ahead in the UK in April and May||Source- (Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, June 2021)|
|As at November 2020, the number of people having to wait more than a year to start hospital treatment in England was 192,169 which is the highest number per month since May 2008||Source- NHS England/Office of National Statistics, January 2021)|
From the recent survey our experts carried out on 2000 participants from across UK, we were able to find the following;
- 73% of Brits are of the opinion that the pandemic will have a direct impact on their medical treatment this year.
- Almost 50% of UK citizens have suffered medical treatment delays by the NHS since the start of the pandemic
- 45% of those that had their medical treatment delayed by the NHS, have seen their condition deteriorate as a result.
Legal experts opine that medical negligence claims against the NHS will rise as a result of delays in medical treatment.
The data available shows that the NHS is facing a huge backlog of non-COVID-19 care since most non-COVID 19 medical conditions were stopped or suspended in addition to changes in patient behaviour. This will undoubtedly cause problems for the future.
The British Medical Association (BMA) estimates that, between April 2020 and June 2021, there were:
- 3.66 million fewer elective procedures
- 28.35 million fewer outpatient attendances.
An Increasing Backlog Of Non-COVID-19 Care
As resources are being diverted towards COVID cases and infection control measures, in addition to more hospitalization of COVID patients in the second wave of the pandemic, it will take quite a longer time for health professionals to work through the backlog of waiting lists.
Although there has been progress recently across referral and waiting time targets, the waiting list remains high. In June 2021, the overall median waiting time reduced to 10.4weeks while the number of patients waiting to be attended to for over 18weeks reduced to 1.7million.
Furthermore, the number of patients waiting over 52weeks for treatment decreased from 336,733 in May to 304,803 in June. In spite of this progress, the waiting list is at a record high 5.45 million and continues to increase.
This trend in events has caused a lot of distress to patients and their loved ones as their health condition continues to worsen due to cancellation of treatment meaning that they face a far worse prognosis than was earlier diagnosed.
Patients Postponing Their Own Treatment
Surveys have shown that 50% of UK citizens who are on the waiting list have delayed their treatments themselves in order not to put additional strain on the NHS.
For 53% of this number, the chief reason why they are postponing their own medical treatment is due to fears that they’ll catch COVID during their medical appointment. Another 52% of Brits delayed their own treatment because they didn’t want to put an added strain on the NHS. The data also shows that whereas 22% of females have delayed their own medical treatment due to COVID-19, only 16% of males delayed their treatment for the same reason.
Additionally, the survey revealed that 42% of 18-24-year olds would delay their own treatment because of COVID whereas only 28% of Brits over 55 were worried about being infected with the virus during their medical appointment.
Potential Dangers Of Delayed Treatment
When you are ill or concerned about your health condition or treatment, it is important you get the help that you need. Your GP should not be able to advise you, but should also be able to make referrals or request that your treatment be treated urgently depending on the case presented.
Even before the pandemic, patients have experienced delays of a few months which they have accepted. However, with attention shifted to COVID-19 cases, the delays have extended even up to a year which could lead to devastating consequences.
Patients requiring some surgeries such as knee and hip replacement, urological procedures, maxillofacial conditions among others have been added to the waiting list as being non-urgent. These patients go on to suffer increasing pains and discomfort and may never recover fully as early treatment is key towards increased chances of long-term recovery.
COVID-19 and Medical Negligence
With many patients suffering worsened medical conditions due to delayed or cancelled treatment, coming to us for help, it is important to review if such patients have a medical negligence claim. Patients have suffered complications which need further, more invasive medical treatment while for some, their condition has become fatal.
The effects of delays to essential treatments such as elective surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and clinical trials as well as inability of patients to access diagnostic tests as at when due such as MRI scans, CT scans, blood tests and biopsies as a result of the pandemic is disheartening.
We are well aware that a substantial amount of the facilities and clinical care, hospital beds, etc. which the Government requisitioned from private providers were not used during the pandemic. These resources could well have been used to cater for non-COVID patients. Instead these patients were denied potentially life-saving diagnostics and treatment when some hospitals were running far below normal capacity with healthcare workers available, able and willing to treat them.
This is a clear breach of their human rights because everyone has the right to access the right standard of healthcare when they need it.
Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights also states that the Government is duty bound to have a properly functioning healthcare framework in place to protect the lives of patients.
Making Medical Negligence Claim Due To COVID-19 Treatment Delays
In some instances, you may be entitled to make a hospital negligence claim due to delays in medical treatment due to COVID-19.
To do this, you need to seek expert legal counsel from a specialist medical negligence solicitor.
Suing the NHS for negligence is not an easy task and therefore you should be prepared to show the following-
- The NHS owed you a duty of care
- The NHS breached that duty of care by neglecting to attending to your health needs
- Ans that you have suffered avoidable harm, psychological trauma, financial distress and other damages due to the delay in commencing or continuing your treatment
Our expert medical negligence claims solicitors are friendly, understanding and empathic. They will ensure that you have all the support you need to get through this difficult period and see that you get further medical treatment or tests which you require.
We will also inform you of documents you may need to provide such as details of your treatment so far, proof of referral which was not attended to, witness statements and make available to you an independent medical professional who will examine you and give a report of how your health has deteriorated as a result of the delay. If you have suffered financial losses, we will also need documents to that effect as these will be very vital to prove your claim.
No Win No Fee Claims
We handle our medical negligence claims on a No Win No Fee basis. This allows you to make your claims without having to make any payment to us before or during the entire claims process.
Our consultation sessions are also free of charge. If after making our investigations and you are entitled to make a claim, we will proceed to make claims on your behalf. We therefore encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to seek justice for the wrong done to you without any financial implications to you.
Contact Our Medical Negligence Solicitors
If you or your loved one has had a potentially lifesaving treatment delayed, cancelled or a diagnostic test suspended indefinitely, and you have concerns over how such cancellations of treatment will impact on your health or that of a loved one, you can talk to us to offer you free expert legal help and support you in your time of difficulty.
First, you can make complaints and register your displeasure with the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) or the complaints department at the hospital. If this is not yielding any fruitful results, then you can reach out to us as we will assign to you a personal medical negligence solicitor to look into your case and intervene on your behalf.
We believe that everyone should have access to quality healthcare when they need it and that should not be put off unnecessarily leaving the patient to suffer avoidable harm.
We are here to help you seek redress and see that you get the justice you deserve. Contact us at 0800 644 4240 now to assist you make that claim.