The cases of more than 120 people who were referred to hospital with possible cancer symptoms in south west Hertfordshire are under review following an administrative error.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has found that patients who did not attend a first appointment were not being offered a second, as is required NHS guidelines.

As a result it has launched a review of 810 cases dating back to January 2010. Today the trust said the review had found one patient who had since died and whose death may have been related to a delay caused by the failure of the system.

The trust, which runs Watford General Hospital as well as sites in St Albans and Hemel, is also in the process of contacting the family of a second patient who has since died in relation to the review.

The review has already found a third person whose treatment was delayed due to the problems with the referral system. However, the trust said this patient’s cancer was still caught at an early stage.

Today hospital bosses said 121 patients were being contacted to tell them their referral cases were still under review.

Samantha Jones, the trust chief executive said: "It is absolutely clear that the trust was not always following the correct administrative processes for these patients and we let them down.

"These concerns date back a number of years and were identified as part of the new management team’s commitment to improve the way we administer and manage patient care. I would like to apologise to each and every patient who has been affected and particularly to the relatives of those who have since died.

"We have of course made significant changes to help prevent this ever happening again and will share the outcome of our investigations with those affected and with the wider public."

Two managers have been suspended while the referral system problems are investigated. The trust has commissioned an external investigation, which will be led by the former NHS chief executive. It has also alerted the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission to the review.

The hospital trust has set up a help line for anyone who has concerns in relation to the review on 01923 217100, which is open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week.