Essex: Cancer report highlights ‘substandard’ care at Colchester’s hospital trust

Colchester General Hospital has opened its new Radiotherapy Centre.

Colchester General Hospital has opened its new Radiotherapy Centre. - Credit: Su Anderson

Cancer care in north Essex has been described as “inadequate” by some patients as part of an in-depth report into the service.

Healthwatch Essex spoke to more than 200 patients and their carers who received treatment in the last three years at Colchester Hospital University Foundation NHS Trust (CHUFT).

It found a mixed experience with some people describing their care as “exceptional” with others calling it “inadequate”.

The study, published today, was set up in the wake of the cancer scandal last year when the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found evidence suggesting waiting time figures had been manipulated at CHUFT.

Healthwatch is an independent body set up by government to review local health services.

Cancer nurse specialists and care provided at the Mary Barron Suite were almost universally praised as were support groups.

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However some people, including those satisfied with the overall service, highlighted substandard care such as staff failing to help with basic needs like washing, feeding and going to the toilet, when they could not cope alone.

Patients reported that bad news was sometimes delivered insensitively, without compassion, and at times in the middle of a ward, while many patients felt paperwork took priority over basic care. Administrative mix-ups were widely reported.

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Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex, said: “CHUFT has already made improvements in the right direction. But this report shows the importance of listening to patients and carers – what do their actual experiences of treatment tell us about where improvements need to be made?”

The report’s findings will feed into the official review being conducted by the incident management team at CHUFT, set up to look into cancer services.

Dr Lucy Moore, interim chief executive at CHUFT, said: “I welcome this extremely helpful report.

“It finds that most patients and carers were satisfied with treatment and care we provided and acknowledges we have made improvements in 2014.

“However, it highlights inconsistencies and I am also concerned some patients and carers felt their concerns were often not listened to.

“I can assure them one of the priorities of the trust’s current board of directors is to actively hear and understand and not just passively listen.

“We are working to develop cancer services that are second to none so that we are at our best consistently and every individual patient benefits from an exceptional service and experience.

“The Healthwatch Essex report will help us to do that because it contains a huge amount of detail that we will use to update our Cancer Action Plan which is revised and published monthly.”

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