A hospital trust is reviewing whether the deaths of 25 patients are related to internal ‘data reporting’ issues which meant more than a thousand patients referred by GPs for a cancer diagnosis may not have been seen within two weeks.
As Pulse first revealed in May, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust was forced to write to GPs to ask for their help in tracking down patients urgently referred for cancer tests, after it was revealed that records detailing whether 1023 such patients still required treatment were incomplete.
A clinical review group, chaired by NHS South East London’s medical director Dr Jane Fryer, has been set up by the trust to ascertain whether patients came to any clinical harm as a result of the errors.
The group has already concluded that 49 deaths were unrelated to longer waiting times, but is still investigating the deaths of 25 patients who died before they could be contacted, and will report on its findings at the end of July.
The trust said that to date it had no evidence any patients had come to any harm, but admitted it still did not know whether 86 suspected cancer patients still required treatment, as they had not responded to letters sent directly by recorded delivery.
To date 900 patients have been tracked down and the trust has confirmed they have been assessed or treated. Of these, 15 patients were re-referred for assessment. 10 were found not to have cancer, while five were invited back for more tests as a matter of urgency.
Council leaders from Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea wrote a joint letter complaining about the trust’s handling of the issue.
The letter said: ‘It seems to us there could be a possibility of clinical harm as a result of delays in the diagnosis and commencement of treatment arising from the trust’s failings.’
Westminster council claimed some patients waited up to one-two years after their original referral from their GP, but Imperial could not confirm or deny this was the case.
The council’s scrutiny committee were due to grill Imperial’s chief executive Mark Daviesat a meeting last night, with leaders believing the trust acted ‘dangerously and irresponsibly’ and misled the council over the possible harm to patients.
Councillor Sarah Richardson, chairman of the scrutiny committee said: ‘Managers were more worried about their reputation than about patient safety. In a public forum they said no-one had come to harm. We believe they deliberately misled the council.’
A spokesperson from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said: ‘To date we have found no evidence that these patients have come to clinical harm as a result of our poor record keeping.’
They added: ‘We are extremely sorry that this situation was not identified and resolved earlier however, we would like to reassure our patients that this was an issue of poor record keeping not clinical care.’
‘Our patients’ safety has been our absolute priority while we have addressed issues in the way we record our data.’