Over the last few months, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on almost every aspect of our lives.
In particular, the virus has had far-reaching consequences for the healthcare sector, and this has had major implications for patient safety.
At the start of the outbreak, hospitals, healthcare clinics and GP practices had to change their normal, day-to-day operations and rapidly shift to focusing on patients critically ill with COVID-19.
Many essential medical treatments for non-COVID-19 patients stopped, elective surgical procedures were put on hold, screening for serious illnesses such as cancer were suspended, diagnostic tests cancelled, and important clinical trials were suspended.
While the NHS response to the pandemic has been incredible, many patients with other serious medical conditions have been left unable to access urgent diagnostics and treatment.
As a law firm specialising in serious personal injury and medical negligence with many years’ experience helping people who have suffered avoidable harmed due to misdiagnosis and delays in diagnosis and treatment, we are deeply concerned about the safety of patients with medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19.
Now that the peak of the crisis has passed, there is a considerable backlog of patients waiting for tests and treatment. The NHS Confederation puts the backlog at more than four million people on the NHS waiting list for routine procedures. This is set to rise substantially and it estimates the waiting list could reach 10 million by the end of the year.
Delays to diagnostics and treatment are having serious repercussions for patients. Many have found their condition has deteriorated or their prognosis is much worse as a result, while others have been put off accessing the vital services they need. This is putting patients’ lives at serious risk.
The danger now is that the death toll from other serious non-COVID-related health conditions (such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease) could far exceed COVID-19 deaths.
If normal healthcare services are not resumed as quickly as possible, there is a risk more people will find themselves with deteriorating conditions or in worst-case scenarios, sadly dying due to diagnosis and treatment delays.
That is why Novum Law’s solicitors support calls from the patient safety charity, Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) for the Government to take urgent action to get the health service fully up and running, as soon as possible to prevent further avoidable harm and deaths to non-COVID-19 patients.
Our specialist medical negligence team has been contacted by many patients who have suffered due to delays in their diagnosis or treatment. Sherwin Hall was one of those clients whose cancer scan and diagnosis were severely delayed during lockdown.
Sadly, Sherwin lost his battle with cancer on 3 December 2020 after his diagnosis was delayed during the first national coronavirus lockdown. His widow La’Troya Hall is now being supported by our specialist medical negligence lawyer and patient safety expert Mary Smith.
Before his death, Sherwin bravely spoke to The Guardian , BBC Yorkshire and Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio Two to tell his story and raise awareness of the issue. You can also listen to Sherwin talk movingly about his tragic story in the excellent Guardian podcast ‘How cancer was side-lined in the fight against COVID-19’.
Credit: BBC Yorkshire
If you or a family member has suffered due to delays to your medical treatment or because your treatment has been temporarily withdrawn or cancelled, our specialist solicitors can provide expert legal advice.