The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has referred an Essex hospital to the police over its cancer services after an investigation by the health watchdog indicated that staff may have been pressured to change patient records in order to meet national cancer targets.
The discovery followed unannounced inspections in August and September and has led to the recommendation by the CQC that Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust be placed in special measures. It has been reported that inspectors found discrepancies over data on waiting times for cancer treatment and that staff had told the CQC they felt “pressured or bullied” to change data. It is feared that some patients may have been put at risk by delays in providing treatment.
As a result the trust, which manages Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital, has now made contact with dozens of patients or their families to offer to review the treatment provided.
Monitor, the organisation tasked with regulating foundation trusts, has now opened a formal investigation into the trust and said it would consider placing the trust into special measures. The trust had previously been named in February this year as one of 14 trusts with higher than expected death rates and the Keogh report in July recommended action to improve several key areas.
Sir Mike Richards, the CQC's chief inspector of hospitals and former “Cancer Tsar” for the UK Government, said: "If you are diagnosed with cancer you are entitled to think that your hospital will do all they can to ensure you get the 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.”
Guy Forster, partner and head of the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches’ Cambridge office, said: “The findings of this latest CQC report are deeply disturbing and, in view of other concerns raised this year, suggest deep-seated systemic problems at this trust. It is essential that these are addressed as a matter of urgency to safeguard patient safety and restore the public’s confidence in services at the hospital.”