The National Health Service has set aside £1.3 billion to cover compensation claims arising from delays in diagnosis and treatment due to the pandemic.
NHS Resolution, which helps resolve patient disputes, estimates claims arising from problems relating to Covid this financial year will be more than double than the same period the year before.
The main driver of the increase is the “indirect impacts of Covid-19 of delays, cancellations and misdiagnosis reflecting longer waiting lists,” it said.
NHS Resolution said it is making provision of £1.3 billion “for new Covid-19 risks and potential claims” that have occurred but not yet been reported in the 2021/2022 financial year.
In 2020/2021, the health service set aside £500 million for the purpose.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay told a conference the government must be transparent about excess deaths, after figures showed more than 28,000 people more than expected died in England and Wales since April.
“We know from the data that there are more 50 to 64-year-olds with cardiovascular issues,” he told the Spectator Health Summit.
“It's the result of delays in that age group seeing the GP because of the pandemic, and in some cases not getting statins for hypertensives in time.
“When coupled with delays to ambulance times we see this reflected in the excess death numbers.”
Professor Gordon Wishart, chief medical officer at Check4Cancer and Visiting Professor of Cancer Surgery at Anglia Ruskin University, said the impact had been predicted since early on in the pandemic.
“The negative impact of Covid restrictions on other time-critical conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease has been predicted since April 2020, with significant harm expected in many patients from delays to diagnosis and treatment,” he told The Telegraph.
“The fact that NHS Resolution has set aside £1.3 billion for future clinical negligence claims is an acknowledgement that the unintended consequences of Covid restrictions will continue for some time, and that these claims are likely to succeed."
Law firms said patients who experienced delays in cancer treatment and referrals could be in line for six-figure compensation payouts.
International law firm RPC Partner Sian Morgan told The Telegraph: “We know that during the pandemic fewer patients were receiving treatment for cancer, whether that was because cancer screening was so disrupted, cases were de-prioritised or because there was a reticence by some to seek medical advice during lockdown.
“The backlog of cancer cases that the NHS faces now is concerning, especially since the usual winter pressures on services are upon us which will likely be compounded by the nursing staff strikes.
“Receipt of timely treatment is critical in impacting prognosis and life expectancy in many cancers, and those who have had to wait for medical intervention may well seek compensation by bringing negligence claims.”
Estimates suggest at least 22,000 fewer people than expected have undergone cancer treatment since the start of the pandemic.