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Colchester: Support for hospital trust chief exec in wake of cancer patient data scandal

22:29 06 November 2013

Dr Gordon Coutts

Dr Gordon Coutts

Cancer patients and politicians last night backed the chief executive at Colchester Hospitals NHS Trust as the man who can bring about the required improvements in the wake of the patient data scandal.

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They say Dr Gordon Coutts has already made strides in improving staff openness at Colchester General Hospital and that the “trust is better off with him in charge”.

The comments come after several media reports featured calls for Dr Coutts to resign following revelations that staff at the trust had been bullied into changing the data on the records of some cancer patients.

The findings were published on Tuesday in a Care Quality Commission report, which said some patients may not have received the treatment they needed in time.

Clacton MP Douglas Carswell said: “Given the culture of bullying and the deliberate doctoring of data that the report has revealed it is clear heads must roll but I don’t think it’s Dr Coutts’ head that should go.

“He is on the side of the enraged. He hasn’t tried to make excuses for what has happened but has shown he wants to make improvements.

“The trust is better off with him in charge than without him.” Janet Brazier, president of the Gastro Intestinal Cancer Support Group which is attached to Colchester General Hospital, agreed with Mr Carswell’s assessment.

She said: “I was saddened to hear calls for Dr Gordon Coutts to resign. I am convinced he is the man to seek out any problems and deal with them robustly.

“In the six-and-a-half years I have been involved with the hospital I have seen huge improvements in terms of openness.”

Mrs Brazier had bowel cancer surgery in May 2007 and has met other patients of Colchester General Hospital with similar diseases through the support group.

She added: “I can only speak from personal experience and my treatment at Colchester General Hospital has been fantastic.

“I have always found the staff to be helpful and open and they have given both me and my husband great support when we have been patients there.”

A spokesman for the trust said Dr Coutts had no intention of resigning and that the trust has made “steady progress” since he and the present chairman, Dr Sally Irvine, took up their posts in 2010.

He said: “We accept that there are still more actions we still need to take and we need to accelerate the changes in our hospitals – that means further clinical, cultural and behavioural changes.

“The chief executive is focused on addressing the very serious concerns raised in the CQC report and leading the trust as it makes further improvements.”

He added that there have not been any suspensions at the trust this stage. “The trust board is commissioning an external investigation to determine whether staff have acted inappropriately and whether disciplinary action is warranted,” he added.

“This will include looking at actions taken by senior staff in response to the whistle-blowing concerns and also into why some staff felt they could not raise concerns internally.

“Dr Sally Irvine has identified some external individuals to carry out the investigation and this will start very shortly. It would be wrong to single out individuals at this stage.”

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