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GPs asked to contact hundreds of patients who may have missed treatment after hospital’s cancer referrals blunder

Exclusive: Hundreds of patients with suspected cancer urgently referred by GPs within the last year to the country's largest hospital trust may not have been seen within two weeks, it emerged today.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust has written to GPs in London to ask for their help in tracking the patients, their carers or their representatives to ‘ascertain whether the patient has received treatment or still requires treatment', after concerns that up to 900 patient records were incomplete.

Londonwide LMCs expressed serious concern at the situation, and said it was ‘perturbed' it had only come to its attention last week. But it told GPs to co-operate with any requests from the hospital for help until the problem was investigated further.

A spokesperson for Imperial College Healthcare said the problems arose from ‘data collection' issues.

‘Some records were opened and not closed, some records duplicated,' she said.

‘We are in the process of clinically validating all records that indicate that a patient may have been waiting longer than two weeks for a referral for suspected cancer. The validation process involves contacting GP practices to review clinical records to ascertain whether the patient has received treatment or still requires treatment, their correct waiting time, and to agree the most appropriate course of action.

‘We are seeking to validate around 900 patient records of this type.'

‘To date our investigations have found no suggestion that any delay in treatment has caused a patient to come to serious harm.'

In an email to GPs, Dr Eleanor Scott, medical director of Londonwide LMCs' North West London Sector, wrote: ‘Londonwide LMCs has been notified that potentially a significant number of patients referred under the two-week cancer referral rule up to one year ago to Imperial College Healthcare NHS Acute Trust may not have received an urgent cancer referral.'

Dr Scott said Londonwide LMCs had asked the hospital trust to contact potentially affected patients themselves in the first instance to explain the situation, but added: ‘In the event your practice is contacted [by the trust], Londonwide LMCs urges practice colleagues to offer all assistance promptly.'

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, told Pulse: ‘It is of huge significance. We're still trying to unravel the implications. Our concern is clearly for patients.'

‘We learned just over a week ago via a communication from Imperial that didn't come directly to us that there were problems. We're rather perturbed that the first we heard of it was via the route we did and as recently as we did.'

‘There are concerns that what is being asked is not as efficient for patients as perhaps some other ways forward, that wouldn't require general practices to do Imperial's work for them.'

‘Until we have absolutely got our heads round it, we are recommending for practices right to help identify those patients.  However the system should be in place for both the commissioners and the providers to have donethat. Questions need to be asked.'

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