14 November 2013
A Care Quality Commission report has recommended that Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust be put into special measures.
Serious concerns were raised during a CQC inspection regarding the quality of some services for cancer patients at the trust, which along with the recommendation have been referred to Monitor.
CQC inspectors found a number of cancer patients may have suffered undue delays in treatment and there were inaccuracies with waiting time data relating to cancer treatment.
Inspectors spent six days at the hospital during August and September; when the national cancer waiting times system was compared against patient records, they found discrepancies in the records and types of treatment recorded for some cancer patients.
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. The records related to people receiving treatment for urological cancers, cancers of the lower and upper gastrointestinal systems, and those of the head, neck, breast and skin.
In some cases, CQC identified, people did not get their treatment within the required 62 days and in three cases delays exceeded 100 days.
CQC says some hospital staff reported they were pressured to change data relating to patients and their treatment to make it seem people were being treated in line with national guidelines. As a result some patients may not have had the treatment they needed in time. Staff also reported having raised concerns about this but that this information was not acted upon by the trust.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘For too long, patients have had to put up with poor care and cover-ups because it was too inconvenient to expose and take action.
‘What’s happened at Colchester shows ... the spotlight shone on failings and extra support [was] given to quickly improve standards.’
Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards said: ‘Clearly this report raises questions over the safety and effectiveness of these services. But it also raises questions at the highest level. We have found that the concerns raised by staff in relation to changes made to people’s cancer pathways were not appropriately managed or investigated by senior staff of the Trust, which is why I am now recommending that this trust should be placed in special measures.’
Richards added: ‘We have referred our findings to NHS England, the local authority, commissioning teams as well as Monitor and we look to them to provide the assurance that the services are safe and effective for everyone when they need them.’
Adam Cayley, Regional Director for Monitor said: ‘Monitor has been working closely with the CQC over its concerns in relation to this trust, and we have identified risks in the way that the trust is run.
‘We have therefore opened a formal investigation into whether it has breached the conditions of its licence, and we will consider putting the trust into special measures as part of any regulatory action we may take to protect its patients.
‘Meanwhile, Monitor is working with its partners to ensure the trust takes appropriate action to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all patients currently using the cancer pathway. We have also asked the trust to implement a look-back review to establish whether there is a risk that other patients did not receive treatment in accordance with national standards in recent years.’