South west Hertfordshire MPs criticise hospital cancer referral errors as ‘unacceptable’

Watford Observer: Watford General Hospital Watford General Hospital

MPs in south west Hertfordshire have described the hospital admin error that has led to more than 800 cancer referrals being reviewed as “unacceptable”.

Today West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust said more than 120 cases are still under review after  it discovered patients who missed first appointments were not being offered a second, in line with NHS guidelines.

Following the revelations five MPs covering the area, Watford’s Richard Harrington, south west Herts’ David Gauke, Hertsmere’s James Clappison, Hemel Hempstead’s Mike Penning and St Albans’ Anne Main, released a joint statement condemning the oversight.

The MP also said “serious” questions needed to asked as to why the error, which was discovered in November, was not picked up earlier.

The statement said: "There is absolutely no doubt that the Trust’s failure to follow the correct administrative process for urgent referrals is unacceptable, and deeply wrong.

"That there have been such tragic consequences makes this so much worse and, first and foremost, our thoughts must be with the people personally affected by this and the families who have been contacted with this news in recent weeks.”

The problems at the trust related to patients who were referred for an appointment by GPs or dentists with symptoms that could signify cancer.

After discovering the error relating to second appointments, the trust reviewed 810 cases and found no problems in 686 of them.

Of the remaining 124, two patients have been found to have died since their referral. In one of these the trust said a delay seeing the patient could have contributed to the death. It is currently contacting the family of the second deceased patient.

A third patient was found to have had their cancer diagnosis delayed because of the error, but the trust said the condition was still caught at an early stage.

The trust is still reviewing the cases of 121 patients in relation to the error.

The trust has also commissioned an independent investigation into what caused the problems and two managers have been suspended while it is carried out.

The MPs acknowledged that the new trust’s new management regime, ushered in by chief executive Samantha Jones, who started last year, had been overhauling the system of monitoring referrals.

They added: “The serious question that needs to be asked is why this was not picked up earlier. Why did the previous management team, not seek to make the same improvements that the new management has undertaken or look at whether procedures were being properly adhered to.

"What is of greater concern, and should absolutely be investigated, is whether this problem is limited to West Herts and if other Trusts should also be reviewing their arrangements for patients who miss urgent referrals.

“We will be keeping in touch with the Trust over the coming weeks to ensure that investigations continue to the highest possible standard and that improvements continue to be made, but remain deeply concerned that the previous management allowed this to happen and feel strongly that there must be accountability for these mistakes once the inquiries are complete.”

Comments (4)

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4:23pm Tue 4 Feb 14

SamPatel says...

Why did so many people not turn up for the appointment in the first place ?

Last year I found a lump after seeing my GP got sent to Watford AAU and a scan the next day, went in for the Scan appointment at 9.30 am had the scan early as the person before me had not turned up for the appointment !
I was fine staff were brilliant

Stop bashing the NHS over people that don't want to be treated !

If you don't turn up to the dentist the only call you get is someone charging you for the appointment time
Why did so many people not turn up for the appointment in the first place ? Last year I found a lump after seeing my GP got sent to Watford AAU and a scan the next day, went in for the Scan appointment at 9.30 am had the scan early as the person before me had not turned up for the appointment ! I was fine staff were brilliant Stop bashing the NHS over people that don't want to be treated ! If you don't turn up to the dentist the only call you get is someone charging you for the appointment time SamPatel

9:14am Wed 5 Feb 14

Disappointed of Watford says...

Wait, so let me get this right: over 800 patients couldn't be bothered to turn up to their URGENT appointment and the hospital is getting bashed for not automatically sending for them again? Where do I even begin with this one?! The world has gone crazy. It's time people took responsibility for their own health. Like the person above, I had an urgent referral for what could have been breast cancer. I had an operation within weeks and was lucky that it was just a cyst that had been bleeding. Hospitals have thousands of DNAs (did not attend) every year and every single person who doesn't turn up for an appointment makes the waiting list longer for others.
Wait, so let me get this right: over 800 patients couldn't be bothered to turn up to their URGENT appointment and the hospital is getting bashed for not automatically sending for them again? Where do I even begin with this one?! The world has gone crazy. It's time people took responsibility for their own health. Like the person above, I had an urgent referral for what could have been breast cancer. I had an operation within weeks and was lucky that it was just a cyst that had been bleeding. Hospitals have thousands of DNAs (did not attend) every year and every single person who doesn't turn up for an appointment makes the waiting list longer for others. Disappointed of Watford

10:02am Wed 5 Feb 14

Cuetip says...

Don't these MPs love playing political football with the NHS.

It used to be about getting things done now it's all about jumping on some political appearance band wagon and with time, scratching around in the dirt to see if they can claim something positive or at worst 'I told you so'.

Far, far too many are still missing their appointments and there are professionals who feel they can turn up late or they can arrogantly ignore appointment time schedules. Imagine the almighty chaos if airlines ran such a service.
Don't these MPs love playing political football with the NHS. It used to be about getting things done now it's all about jumping on some political appearance band wagon and with time, scratching around in the dirt to see if they can claim something positive or at worst 'I told you so'. Far, far too many are still missing their appointments and there are professionals who feel they can turn up late or they can arrogantly ignore appointment time schedules. Imagine the almighty chaos if airlines ran such a service. Cuetip

3:48pm Wed 5 Feb 14

EU_OUT_NOW says...

Don't miss your appointment. Simples. Those that selfishly deprive other needy cancer patients don't deserve another appointment. We sure as hell didn't miss ours!!
Don't miss your appointment. Simples. Those that selfishly deprive other needy cancer patients don't deserve another appointment. We sure as hell didn't miss ours!! EU_OUT_NOW

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