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‘GP negligence’ to blame for sarcoma litigation cases, study claims



A study has said that negligence by GPs is the leading cause of sarcoma litigation cases, a claim which has been strongly challenged by GP cancer experts.

The study, by specialists from the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and published in the Journal of Surgical Oncology, investigated claims relating specifically to sarcomas made against the NHS trusts in England and Wales across a 15-year period.

Negligence was confirmed in 71% of the 53 claims and reportedly cost the NHS a total of £4.4 million, with an average of £84,000 per case – £14,000 higher than the average medical negligence claim.

Of the confirmed negligence cases, 89% were found to be due to a delay in diagnosis, with the study putting an emphasis on delayed recognition of sarcomas at a primary care level.

But cancer experts have rebuffed the claims, and have stated that delays are just as likely to occur at a secondary care level.

Cancer expert Professor Greg Rubin said: ’It’s important to understand that delays occur just as much in secondary care as not everyone is referred by their GPs.

’Specialists who do not specialise in sarcoma may not recognise the symptoms and create delays. It’s important not to attribute the delay to GPs.’

The nature of sarcoma itself –a rare and difficult cancer to spot due to its non-specific symptoms – has been cited as the main issue in referring sarcoma patients.

Professor Willie Hamilton, a professor of primary care diagnostics, further added: ’Sarcoma diagnosis in primary care isn’t easy, as they can occur in almost any part of the body and are also very rare.

’We do know that NICE recognised this and brought in – for the first time – specific recommendations for investigation of possible sarcoma. It’s an issue of rarity.’

The rarity of sarcoma, thought to account for 1% of all UK cancers, was reflected in the sample size of the study – a total of just 52 sarcoma related claims were made across the 15 year period.

Read the full study here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jso.24149/full