Police to investigate cancer unit at Colchester General Hospital

5 November 2013

Police to investigate cancer unit at Colchester General Hospital

Police will be investigating the cancer unit at a Essex Hospital after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) uncovered reports of delayed treatment.

The CQC carried out an unannounced inspection at Colchester General Hospital in August and September. Whilst undergoing investigations there its inspectors uncovered patients records which had not been updated, resulting in failures in cancer treatment.

Chief executive Dr Gordon Coutts said: "We are very concerned by the report."

"We are truly sorry that in some cases cancer patients, their carers and families have not always received the high quality of care that they should have expected from our trust," he said.

The chief inspector of hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, has recommended that Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust be put into special measures, which will either result in new management team being brought in or another trust put in charge.

Prof Richards added: "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 6,000 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."

The unannounced visits were made by the CQC after they received complaints about waiting times for cancer treatment. Their report delved into the detail of the delayed treatment finding that some patients

The CQC said inspectors visited the trust after receiving complaints about waiting times for cancer treatment did not get their treatment within the required 62 days, and in three cases delays exceeded 100 days.

"Six people described problems experienced in their treatment including delays in receiving care," the report said.

"The provider did not have adequate systems to maintain the safety and welfare of cancer patients."

It was the lack of updating of medical records and details of appointments that led to the heightened risk of patients not receiving the timely treatment they so needed for cancer.

The CQC identified 22 cases where patients did experience delays in their care.

Essex Police said it had been contacted by the Care Quality Commission and was "reviewing information" to "establish whether a criminal investigation is necessary".

"We found that the concerns raised by staff in relation to changes made to people's cancer pathways were not appropriately managed, investigated or responded to by senior staff of the trust," it said.

"Staff we spoke to provided examples of bullying and harassment by the management team in respect of changes of the cancer pathways.

"We found that managers did not show clear leadership in a way that ensured the safety and welfare of patients by providing a high quality of care."

Royal College of Nurses regional director Karen Webb said: "The CQC report concerning Colchester Hospital does chime with concerns we have voiced on behalf of nurses about the culture at the trust in the last couple of years. It is right that the hospital is placed in special measures."

A spokesperson at Mistreatment.com said: “The gravity of these findings has made it clear why police intervention is required. Unfortunately this is only the beginning; we have seen how members of the public have called into us regarding delayed cancer treatment at other hospitals-not just Colchester-and it is clear that the findings of the CQC report must be acted upon swiftly. Ignoring the signs of cancer and failing to treat them in a timely fashion simply cannot be tolerated.”

If you or a loved one have come across delayed treatment with regards to any type of cancer at any hospital, you can speak to somebody at Mistreatment.com to understand your patient and statutory rights. If you have experienced any form of medical mistreatment at any of the above mentioned trusts, or want to better understand exactly what your patient rights are, Mistreatment.com are pleased to offer advice and support to you. Our specialists have wide experience of providing advice and support across a number of areas relating to potential medical mistreatment, such as misdiagnosis and delay and surgery errors, for example.