Colchester: Report reveals serious failings in hospital cancer services

Dr Christine Macleod, Andrew Pike and Dr Shane Gordon briefed the press on a report about the safety and quality of cancer services at Colchester General Hospital. Dr Christine Macleod, Andrew Pike and Dr Shane Gordon briefed the press on a report about the safety and quality of cancer services at Colchester General Hospital.

Thursday, December 19, 2013
3:50 PM

A report into the quality and safety of cancer services at Colchester General Hospital has identified serious failings.

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The review of treatment of all 17 different types of cancer at the trust cites problems with patient records being badly organised, a lack of a clear strategy on cancer services at the trust and staffing shortages.

It says cancer patients suffered “unwarranted delays to diagnosis and treatment”.

The NHS trust that runs Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital said today it was addressing the issues.

The review was launched after claims staff had been bullied into changing data to hit cancer targets.

Today, it revealed that in a number of areas, including urology, skin cancer and radiology, services had been unsafe.

The report was launched this morning by a panel headed up by Andrew Pike, NHS England director of the Essex area team, who said he was “concerned, upset and surprised” by what had been found during the review.

“We had been conditioned by the earlier CQC report to expect something not too clever. However, on the positive side we have produced a clear report to help the trust get to grips with its cancer services.”

Also on the panel, Shane Gordon, chief officer of NHS North East Essex CCG, said he was satisfied that the work already done has brought cancer services “up to an adequate standard”, but they wanted to achieve excellence.

He said some of the improvements required - such as recruiting support staff - had already been put in place. Other improvements, such as updating IT and patient record systems, would take several months.

He added that the trust had responded “extremely robustly” to the recommendations in the report.

Medical director, at the trust, Dr Sean MacDonnell, said: “We accept in full the report and its recommendations, and I would like to thank everyone who contributed for their work which shines a light on the way ahead for our cancer services.

“Today’s publication will help to shape our Cancer Action Plan and gives us an opportunity to create consistently good quality cancer services that our patients have the right to expect, a challenge which we have already taken up with great focus and determination.

“The report identifies a number of problems in our cancer services which are extremely concerning but which we have started to address.

“However, it is important to stress to current cancer patients and their families that the main issues are with our processes – which we are determined to put right – and the report does not question the quality of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery for patients with cancer.

“There is much work to do but the report also points to areas of good practice, including dedicated clinical staff and teams that work very well together.”

Dr MacDonnell said the Trust was very sorry for the worry, distress and concern caused for patients, relatives and carers.

He added that the Trust had already started to make improvements before the CQC report was published on 5 November, such as by inviting in the national Intensive Support Team (IST) for Cancer in October. The IST report is published as an appendix to today’s NHS England review.

Among the improvements the Trust is making are a full workforce review, training improvements, and a review of “every aspect of diagnosis, treatment and care to ensure the Trust is fully implementing national standards”.

A new Cancer Medical Lead and a new Cancer Services Manager have been appointed to help lead improvements, and the post of Lead Cancer Nurse will be advertised next month with the aim of filling it by April.

Patients and their families who have concerns have been asked to contact a helpline on 0800 028 2026.