Urgent calls to clear backlog of patients awaiting tests & treatment

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Novum Law client Sherwin Hall, from Leeds, has been in the headlines talking about the huge impact health service delays have had on his cancer treatment.

Sadly, Sherwin is now fighting for his life after his cancer was not picked up sooner following the severe disruption to NHS services at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

His tragic case has highlighted the huge toll the virus has had on those people who do not have COVID-19, but require urgent diagnostics and medical care.

As a specialist personal injury law firm, Novum Law’s solicitors have serious concerns about the impact the severe delays are having on patient safety and the potential risk to lives.

We fully support the campaign Action Against Medical Accidents, the charity for patient safety and justice launched this week calling on the Government to take urgent action to clear the significant backlog of patients waiting for essential tests and treatment.

In a statement sent to the press, AvMA Chief Executive Peter Walsh said: “Urgent action is required to prevent avoidable harm and deaths amongst non-COVID-19 patients. AvMA is calling for the Government to act urgently to open-up NHS services for non-COVID patients or risk avoidable harm to thousands.

He added on his blog: “It is now imperative that the Government massively accelerates the opening-up of services for patients with potentially life-threatening conditions and for vulnerable people and makes maximum use of all available facilities. Not to do so is running the risk of a catastrophe which could affect thousands more patients who do not have COVID-19.”

Sherwin Hall’s Cancer Treatment Delays

Unfortunately, this may all come too late for Novum Law client Sherwin Hall who began seeking care at Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital days before the lockdown which started on 23 March. Speaking about his ordeal he told The Guardian:

“I’m fighting for my life because I didn’t have a scan. I should have had the scan months earlier… I started asking for one in early March but didn’t finally get one until last week… I’m devastated that I might lose my life to cancer that could have been cured if they had done what they were supposed to do [more quickly].”

Credit: BBC Yorkshire

When Sherwin finally had his scan, it revealed a large 14 cm malignant tumour in his pelvis. It also found 30 small tumours in his lungs, suggesting his cancer might have spread while he was waiting for tests. He has been told by doctors that his cancer is particularly aggressive and fast-growing, and he faces an uncertain future.

Professor Karol Sikora, one of the world’s leading cancer experts and adviser to the World Health Organization, gave his thoughts on Sherwin’s tragic case on BBC Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine Show.

“Sherwin’s trouble was not getting that first scan, that was the failure… (with a scan) such a large mass in the pelvis would have been biopsied, it would have been diagnosed and it could have been treated at a much earlier stage.”

Sherwin has instructed Mary Smith from our Bristol office, who specialises in medical negligence claims to investigate his case. She said: “The priority is to find out what happened in Sherwin’s case and to work with the hospital involved to really understand what went wrong.

“Sherwin’s overriding concern is that whatever went wrong for him doesn’t happen to anyone else. Part of the role of any good clinical negligence lawyer is to drive change in healthcare standards, to improve patient safety and to prevent similar things happening to others.”

Sherwin has bravely appeared on television on ITV News and BBC Yorkshire’s ‘Look North’ to talk about his experiences. You can also listen to Sherwin talk movingly about his tragic story in the excellent Guardian podcast How cancer was sidelined in the fight against COVID-19’. He is also keen to promote his GoFundMe page which is raising funds for him to access treatment in an alternative cancer hospital so that he can “have the best chance of survival to watch my six-year-old and nine-week old sons grow up.”

NHS Delays

There is no question that the NHS has done a fantastic job in the face of a significant and unprecedented global pandemic. It completely overhauled the use of its facilities, brought many NHS staff out of retirement, requisitioned thousands of private hospital beds and built several emergency Nightingale Hospitals at breakneck speed, anticipating significant demand from critically ill coronavirus patients.

Fortunately, this did not happen. The extra capacity was not needed. Now we are past passed the peak, the question is ‘how will the NHS clear the huge backlog of patients waiting for routine tests, scans, treatment and surgery?’

With some experts suggesting it will take over a year operating at 125% of normal capacity to clear the current cancer backlog alone, it is clear there is a long and difficult road ahead.

Novum Law will continue to highlight the importance of patient safety in these challenging times. We owe it to clients like Sherwin, to do our utmost to raise awareness of the risks that delays to diagnostics and treatment can have on patients’ lives.

If you or a family member has been affected by healthcare delays during the lockdown and you would like expert advice, call Freephone 0800 884 0777 or email info@novumlaw.com.

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