Operations cancelled after cable blunder

MORE than 20 patients had their operations cancelled at an Essex hospital after workmen accidentally cut through a data cable.

Roddy Ashworth

MORE than 20 patients had their operations cancelled at an Essex hospital after workmen accidentally cut through a data cable.

The fibre optic link between Severalls Hospital and Colchester General Hospital (CGH) was severed by contractors working for the North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust on Friday.

As a result, important information relating to pathology tests could not be examined by doctors at CGH who required electronic access to the Severalls site to do so.


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This meant that some patients, who could not be properly assessed, had to stay in CGH longer than planned, leading to a shortage of beds.

The knock-on effect was that there was no room on wards for a number of patients who were due to go to hospital to have pre- arranged surgery.

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Andrew McLaughlin, chief operating officer for the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs CGH, said: “The trust takes patient safety very seriously and we did not want to compromise that high standard.

“The events of Friday were a patient safety issue for us because we couldn't receive results for patients to check if those who were meant to be going home were fit enough to do so.

“This meant cancelling some operations for new patients.

“We apologise to those who were affected by having their operation cancelled, and also to those who were unable to be discharged, as we know the impact this has on people and their families.

“We are writing to patients who had a cancelled operation to reschedule them as soon as is practicable.

“Meanwhile, electronic reporting links to hospital and GPs have been operating normally since Friday evening and our pathology labs report that specimen backlogs have been cleared.”

A spokesman for North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “A BT fibreoptic cable running just below the ground surface on the perimeter fence boundary of the old Severalls Hospital site was accidentally severed on Thursday during essential fence construction work being done at the site on our behalf.

“Every precaution had been taken by our contractor. The cable route does not appear on the current map of the site and was not picked up in preparatory ground investigations.

“Our project managers worked closely with the BT team to rectify the situation as rapidly as possible to minimise the impact this had on hospital services.”

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