Staff Pressurised To Manipulate Patient Data, Colchester Hospital Worker Claims

20 December 2013

Staff Pressurised To Manipulate Patient Data, Colchester Hospital Worker Claims

In light of a thorough NHS England review into the cancer services provided by Colchester Hospital, it has emerged that staff were pressurised to manipulate appointments so as to improve the trust’s figures, a worker at the hospital claims.

“Serious failings” were identified by NHS England yesterday regarding Colchester Hospital’s cancer services, an investigation and review which came after initial Care Quality Commission (CQC) findings that staff were “pressured or bullied” to change data.

An administrative worker at the hospital has claimed that people who complained about the practices within the chains of command were routinely ignored. A spokesman for the hospital said disciplinary action would be taken against anyone found to have acted improperly.

The hospital- which is currently being investigated by Essex Police- saw the resignation of the chief executive Dr Gordon earlier this week.

The worker, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the BBC that workers were instructed to book patients in cases whose waiting times had not breached targets.

This would also impact on those whose waiting times had already breached targets, with those patients waiting even longer for treatment. Worryingly, it was alleged that not just cancer case was compromised in this way but also to routine appointments.

The staff member said "We were told to just book the patients that had not breached, so that our performance figures would look better.

"We were only allowed to let through a certain number of breaches a month, in order for our performance to look good.

"The attitude of management towards outside help or intervention was incredibly negative.

"Staff in general throughout the entire trust are led to believe that if anyone has to come in from the outside, that nobody would enjoy working at the trust anymore - even if they didn't already, it would be made considerably worse.

"They just told all staff to get on with it and it was essential, because if the trust was seen to be failing Monitor would come in and everyone's lives would be made difficult.

The worker further alleged that staff at all levels were "becoming increasingly frustrated and disheartened by challenging decisions that were being made that were not right and and were not fair to patients".

"A number of staff were being asked to lie to patients over reasons why they weren't getting treatment in time and why they were having to wait longer for treatment," the employee said.

At present a total of thirteen cancer patients are to be recalled by NHS England from the initial sample of 910 from the hospital, with NHS England carrying out a further search from 47,000 cancer files back to 2010, with a hospital-wide investigation will to commence in  January or February 2014.

Regarding the claims made by the worker regarding the manipulation of figures, a spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We take these claims extremely seriously and will take disciplinary action against anyone in the organisation who has acted improperly.

"If this employee has not already raised these matters, we would strongly encourage him or her to do so.

"Our trust aims to promote a culture where staff feel able to raise concerns, ideally openly or, if they prefer, anonymously.

"Part of the remit of the ongoing independent investigation is to try to establish whether or not there may be a case to answer under the trust's disciplinary policies by any employee concerned in either the handling of, or the response to, concerns that were raised."

If you or somebody you know has undergone medical treatment at Colchester Hospital, Mistreatment.com are able to provide you with advice, support and guidance to identify whether you have experienced medical mistreatment and to understand exactly what your patient and healthcare rights are. Mistreatment.com has experienced and specialist teams dealing with cancer treatment who can provide you with support and advice if you feel you have experienced medical mistreatment at Colchester Hospital, or at any other hospital or trust.