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Delays in ovarian cancer diagnosis by GPs lead to big medical negligence payouts

Delays in diagnosing ovarian cancer are a common source of medical negligence claims against GPs, and have led to damages payouts of up to £550,000, an analysis by the Medical Defence Union has found.

The MDU identified 209 cases over nine years involving alleged delays in diagnosis by doctors. There were 59 deaths from ovarian cancer in cases where the outcome was known. Of 71 claims, eight were settled, 15 are ongoing, the rest were discontinued or out of time. 

Of the settled cases, all but one resulted from a diagnostic delay and resulted in compensation awards of up to £550,000.

Dr Rachel Sutcliffe, Medico-legal adviser at the MDU, said typical symptoms such as stomach pain and bloating are similar to those of other common conditions.

‘Given the nonspecificnature of the condition, failure to diagnose ovarian cancer is not necessarily negligent.

‘However, the seriousness of the condition means that it is important that when the diagnosis is considered, doctors take steps to exclude it within a reasonable timescale and to make appropriate, timely referrals for further assessment, treatment or procedures.'


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