A hospital trust has been reported to the police after staff said they were being "bullied" to falsify data relating to cancer patients.Read the full story ›
A patient was referred to Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust's cancer service in May last year.
In the records book, the referral had been documented that the patient turned up in July, two months later.
That made it look as if the hospital were meeting the national guideline of treating patients within 62 days.
Is this serious? Well, every expert we've spoken to has revealed the big issue with cancer is that time is everything.
With every delay in treatment, the cancer can grow, can spread and could prove fatal.
We don't know that's happened at Colchester but we do know staff have been bullied into changing the records and taking risks with peoples' lives - just to make it look as though they are meeting a national requirement, when in fact they are not.
The Department of Health (DH) has admitted poor patient care and hospital cover-ups have gone on for "too long" and the Department said a new system will identify failings in the NHS.
It comes after a health watchdog found that 22 cancer patients at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust may have missed vital treatment after staff complained they were pressurised into changing waiting time data to meet national targets.
Reacting to the findings, the DH said: “For too long, patients have had to put up with poor care and cover-ups because it was too inconvenient to expose and take action.
“That’s why we’ve strengthened the inspection regime, given whistle-blowers extra protection and made it a duty for staff to raise concerns."
It added: “What’s happened at Colchester shows the new system working; the spotlight shone on failings and extra support being given to quickly improve standards.”
We have been working on a series on cancer care in the UK for three weeks and everyone we have spoken to stresses how important early diagnosis and early treatment is.
Delaying treatment for even a few days, the cancer can grow, and it can spread and it becomes much more dangerous.
To find, in this case, the allegation was that staff were bullied into changing records so it made it look as if patients were getting timely treatment when in fact they were not, I think this is one of the most shocking things I have heard, in a long time.
On behalf of the trust, I apologise to the patients, relatives and carers who we have let down. We are very sorry for the worry, distress and concerns that have been raised by the publication of the CQC report into our cancer services.
Our priority is to focus on the safety and welfare of all cancer patients.
We are learning from this inspection, we are changing the way we do things where necessary and we are doing this quickly so that we are certain that all cancer patients using our hospitals receive the best possible care.
It is also extremely disheartening for us to learn that it appears from the CQC inspection report that some inappropriate changes were made to cancer waiting time data."
A report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has found a number of cancer patients suffered "undue delays" at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.
A spokesman said that of the 61 care records examined, 22 showed that people had been "placed at risk of receiving care that was unsafe or not effective, due to delays in receiving appointments or treatment".
The CQC said that the trust has written to 30 patients, or their next of kin - where patients have died, offering to review their treatment.
The Chief Inspector of Hospitals Sir Mike Richards said "It is shocking to think that people's lives may have been put at risk for the sake of the waiting time figures".
He has recommended that the hospital should be put into special measures
If you are diagnosed with cancer - you are entitled to think that your hospital will do all they can to ensure you get treatment you need as soon as possible. It is shocking to think that people's lives may have been put at risk for the sake of the waiting time figures.
Every year around six thousand people go to Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust to be treated for cancer. It is essential that people in north Essex can have confidence in their hospital.
We have found that the concerns raised by staff in relation to changes made to people’s cancer pathways were not appropriately managed or investigated by senior staff of the Trust, which is why I am now recommending that this trust should be placed in special measures.
Essex Police have confirmed they are reviewing whether to open a criminal case following the CQC report into Colchester hospital. In a statement, a police spokesperson said:
Essex Police has been contacted by the Care Quality Commission and is currently reviewing the information it has provided to establish whether a criminal investigation is necessary.
Health watchdog the Care Quality Commission has recommended Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust should be put into special measures following serious concerns over services for cancer patients highlighted during an inspection.
CQC says staff reported they were pressured to change data relating to patients and their treatment to make it seem people were being treated in line with national guidelines - when they were not and some may not have had the treatment they needed in time.
Staff also reported having raised concerns about this but that this information was not acted upon by the trust.
CQC has also referred its findings to Essex police.
Police could soon be able to confiscate licences from drivers who are medically unfit following a campaign by a mother from Colchester.Read the full story ›