CQC Raise Serious Concerns About Essex Hospital Trust

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals has recommended Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust should be placed into special measures.

Professor Sir Mike Richards' call follows serious concerns, highlighted during a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection, regarding the quality of some services for cancer patients at the trust.

The concerns and the recommendation have been referred to Monitor, the sector regulator for health services in England.

CQC inspectors found a number of cancer patients may have suffered undue delays in treatment and there were inaccuracies with waiting time data relating to cancer treatment.

In its inspection report, published today, CQC says some hospital 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. As a result some patients 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.

This week Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust has written to 30 patients, or their next of kin, where patients have died, offering to review their treatment.

CQC's inspection, which took place during August and September, followed information of concern which had been received about the treatment of patients from the end of 2011.

Inspectors spent six days at the hospital talking to patients and staff. When inspectors checked the national cancer waiting times system against patient records, they found discrepancies in the records and types of treatment recorded for some cancer patients.

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 records related to people receiving treatment for urological cancers, cancers of the lower and upper gastrointestinal systems, and those of the head, neck, breast and skin.

In some cases, CQC identified, people did not get their treatment within the required 62 days and in three cases delays exceeded 100 days.

Even though an internal investigation in 2012 identified concerns, the trust failed to investigate the allegations thoroughly or follow up with the patients who were affected. Staff alleged that they had been pressured, or bullied to change data.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards said: "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.

"Clearly this report raises questions over the safety and effectiveness of these services. But it also raises questions at the highest level. 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.”

The concerns were highlighted to CQC by the team carrying out inspections as part of Sir Bruce Keogh's review of NHS trusts, who had been contacted by a whistleblower.


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