Colchester: Hospital reported to the police after claims patients’ cancer records were falsified


A hospital trust has been reported to the police after staff complained that they were being “pressured or bullied” to falsify data relating to cancer patients.

A number of cancer patients suffered “undue delays” at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said.

CQC inspectors found that there were “inaccuracies” with waiting time data relating to cancer treatment.

Staff told inspectors they were “pressured or bullied” to change data relating to patients and their treatment to make it seem like people were being treated in line with national guidelines, a CQC spokesman said.

As a result some patients may not have had the treatment they needed in time, the spokesman added.

The watchdog has passed its findings to Essex Police, he said.

Medical Director of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Sean MacDonnell, said he was “shocked and dismayed” by the findings and said the hospital was working to ensure its cancer services were “consistently safe”.

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When inspectors visited the trust in August and September they checked the national cancer waiting times system against patient records and found discrepancies in the records and types of treatment recorded for some cancer patients, the CQC said.

The spokesman said that of the 61 care records examined, 22 showed that people had been “placed at risk of receiving care that was unsafe or not effective, due to delays in receiving appointments or treatment”.

In some cases people did not get their treatment within the required 62 days, and in three cases delays exceeded 100 days.

Even though an internal trust investigation in 2012 identified concerns, hospital bosses failed to investigate the allegations thoroughly or follow up with the patients who were affected, the watchdog said.

The CQC said that the trust has written to 30 patients, or their next of kin - where patients have died, offering to review their treatment.

Dr Sean MacDonnell said: “On behalf of the Trust, I apologise to the patients, relatives and carers who we have let down. We are very sorry for the worry, distress and concerns that have been raised by the publication of the CQC report into our cancer services.

“Our priority is to focus on the safety and welfare of all cancer patients.

“We urge all patients currently using our cancer services to keep their appointments. The issues in the CQC report are primarily about delays to treatment and it is vitally important that patients continue with their treatment.

“We are already working with the CQC, Monitor, local GPs, North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group [CCG] and NHS England, as well as independent, external experts, to make sure that all of our cancer services are consistently safe and comply with national standards. With their help, we have already implemented a number of improvements.

“Both myself and staff throughout the Trust are shocked and dismayed by the concerns raised in the CQC report. Patients and the public can be reassured that we are taking the findings extremely seriously and are determined to get to the bottom of the issues and sort them out.

“If there is any evidence that any of our staff have inappropriately adjusted and reported cancer figures, the Trust will take the strongest possible action against them. Equally, the Trust will take action against any employee involved in bullying, harassment or coercion of its staff by other staff, if this appears to have happened in relation to changes made to data.

A spokesman for Essex Police added: “Essex Police has been contacted by the CQC and is currently reviewing information it has provided to establish whether a criminal investigation is necessary.”