The records were apparently edited to meet national cancer treatment targets, specifically that a patient must wait no longer than 62 days between GP referral to the end of their first phase of treatment. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) spotted during an investigation that a third of cancer records from a random sample had been edited to hide delays for life saving treatments. It has been revealed that some patients waited over 100 days before essential care, and The Observer claims that one patient waited over 200 days, over three times the required national standard, to start treatment.
It is feared that over 6,000 patients have had their records tampered with over a 3 year period with Colchester hospital treating around 6,000 cancer patients every year.
The spotlight has fallen on senior managers at the hospital, who reportedly bullied and pressured nurses and administration staff into illegally changing the records in order for the hospital to meet targets, putting jobs and lives at risk. The Royal College of nursing raised concerns over a year ago of a bullying culture between management and nursing staff, which was dismissed as ‘fantasy’.
The CQC chief inspector, Sir Mike Richards, has forwarded his concerns to the police, who are now investigating the incidents, after discovering the breadth and severity of the falsifications.
Independent health regulator Monitor announced that its own investigation into Colchester found that it had breached its licence and have now applied special measures. A review will begin immediately into how the widespread falsification began and what actions need to be taken to prevent further issues at the cancer treatment unit.
Trade Union Unison blew the whistle on the goings on at the hospital after staff raised concerns about the records. Tracey Lambert, regional head of health for Unison, said: “The decision to take Colchester hospital into special measures is the right one. The trust board has lost the confidence of patients and the public in north-east Essex and people want to see strong, positive action to improve healthcare at the hospital.”
The investigation by Monitor into leadership and care at the hospital continues.