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What Are Really The Top Misdiagnosed Conditions In NHS Hospitals In 2014/15?

Last updated on December 14th, 2020 at 09:16 pm

Surprisingly, until now, there was very little reliable statistical evidence in the public domain about the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses in the UK – with much so-called research relying on anecdotal and second-hard sources. However, in a Graysons’ exclusive, we put in a freedom of information request to the NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA) – which handles all the claims brought against NHS hospitals – to find out:

Misdiagnosis claims

Nobody wants to be ill, or to have to visit their doctor, or to be admitted to hospital, but when we do, we trust them with our lives and health and accept the advice and information provided to us by them. Unfortunately, mistakes do happen and doctors, nurses, dentists and other health professionals can misdiagnose a condition. This could count as medical negligence, and you might be able to make a claim for compensation for it.

What types of misdiagnosis are there?

There are several types of diagnostic errors that can occur:

  • Failure to diagnose – where a condition is simply missed altogether and so receives no treatment
  • Late diagnosis – this could mean that as well as suffering from your health condition for longer, both your survival chances and recovery time could be affected
  • Incorrect diagnosis – where you are misdiagnosed with the wrong illness, this could lead to the wrong treatment which could be even more harmful. Or you could even have suffered the anxiety of being told you had a serious illness, when you actually didn’t!

What did misdiagnosis claims cost the NHS in 2014/15?

The NHS LA uses only two misdiagnosis cause codes when collecting its information. These are ‘failure/delay diagnosis’ and ‘wrong diagnosis’.

We asked for the value of claims successfully closed or settled as a periodical payment order (PPO) – that’s a financial order made by the court – in 2014/15 where ‘failure/delay diagnosis’ was either the first or second cause code. Alongside this are the damages that have so far been paid out for these claims.

  • Successful ‘failure/delay diagnosis’ claims closed in 2014/15: 1,136

Total sum paid out: £185,032,609.53

We also asked for the value of claims successfully closed or settled as a PPO in 2014/15 where ‘wrong diagnosis’ was either the first or second cause code. Alongside this are the damages that have so far been paid out for these claims.

  • Successful ‘wrong diagnosis’ claims closed in 2014/15: 150.

Total sum paid out: £12,232,785.26

That means that, together, misdiagnosis – whether it’s failed, late or wrong – has cost NHS hospitals a belting £197.2million in the last financial year!

We’ve put this information into an easily shareable infographic, which you can view and download below.

Click to view the full size infographic

Click to view the full size infographic
Please include attribution to with this graphic.

What are the top misdiagnosed conditions in the NHS?

We asked the NHS LA to run a search for the top 30 terms in all the incident descriptions of ‘failure/delay diagnosis’ and ‘wrong diagnosis’ claims that were closed or settled in 2014/15, and this is the information it provided.

Why is the word ‘failure’ top?

This could relate to failure to diagnose, or it could relate to organ failure. As there’s no context included around this, we can’t be certain whether it’s organ failure or generalised human error that’s the top cause of claims.

Illnesses and conditions identified

As you can see, the first unambiguous condition we can identify in this table is fracture, with a grand total of 229 mentions (183 for ‘fracture’ plus 46 for ‘fractured’ = 229)

The second illness most commonly diagnosed is cancer, with a total of 113 mentions (85 for ‘cancer’ plus 28 for ‘cancer.’ = 113)

Thirdly, we have tendon, with 48 mentions. This table below is taken from the NHS LA’s response to our freedom of information request:


Any nothing words such as a ‘the’ ‘and’ etc. have been removed or discounted from the information. Obviously the context around these is not included so the NHS LA has strongly recommended that these are not used for research or audit purposes.

Which NHS trusts have paid out the most claims for misdiagnoses?

We asked the NHS LA for details about the top 5 NHS trusts who had paid out (i.e. settled or closed) the greatest number of claims in 2014/15 for misdiagnosis claims.

So, who were the top hospitals for ‘failure/delay diagnosis’ claims?

Interestingly, the Department of Health itself inherits historical claims from organisations that no longer exist or cannot be attributed to a specific trust, so that’s why it comes out top, as provided in the NHS LA’s table, below:


As we can see, the top individual hospital was Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, with 26 claims paid out for a failure or delay in diagnosis.

The trust with the second highest number of claims paid out last year was Lewisham and Greenwich.

Which hospitals came top for ‘incorrect diagnosis’ claims?


Liverpool Women’s Hospital paid out the greatest number of successful claims, with 46.

University Hospitals Leicester also comes out with a significant amount – 25 claims – in second place.

About these figures

It’s important to note, however, that these figures can account only for misdiagnoses where a claim is brought against an NHS hospital – and not in primary care like a GP or doctors’ surgery, dentist or dental practice, or other primary healthcare provider. This means that there could be many further cases of misdiagnosis that:

  • are never brought against the NHS in the form of medical negligence claims
  • the patient is still living with, of which they are totally unaware
  • are against private sector or independent hospitals
  • are against primary care providers, like GPs and dentists
  • are against allied health professionals like physiotherapists

What are the effects of misdiagnosis?

Your medical misdiagnosis compensation claim will vary depending on certain factors. These include:

  • the circumstances surrounding the misdiagnosis
  • overall severity of your misdiagnosis
  • ongoing illness and or recovery time
  • changes to life expectancy
  • financial loss
  • delay in rectification or acknowledgment
  • liability acceptance
  • care and support
  • lifestyle changes

What effects can you claim for?

A medical misdiagnosis claim can be made for:

  • pain, discomfort and disability caused
  • reduction in life expectancy
  • loss of earnings
  • medication and or equipment costs
  • treatment costs including travel expenses

How can Graysons help?

If you’ve been the victim of medical negligence in the form of a misdiagnosis, we’re with you all the way.

Here at Graysons we recognise the devastating, and in some cases fatal, effect that a misdiagnosis can have. We understand the importance of compensation to you as it can greatly improve quality of life for you and your family and provide the care and security that is needed.

If you would like to talk to a member of our specialist team then please contact us for a confidential and free discussion today.

You can read more about claiming compensation for misdiagnosis written by our medical negligence solicitors, as well as information regarding who you can claim against, and a guide to your claim.

Contact us now for a free of charge meeting in which we can discuss your case – or give us a call on 0114 272 9184.

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