Watford NHS trust asked who's responsible for cancer referral blunder

Failings in the urgent cancer referral system discovered shortly after chief executive Samantha Jones came to the trust

Failings in the urgent cancer referral system discovered shortly after chief executive Samantha Jones came to the trust

First published in News
Last updated
Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

The NHS trust in charge of Watford General Hospital is facing questions over who was responsible for its botched handling of urgent cancer referrals, which may have cost the lives of two patients.

An independent investigation published this week revealed a number of serious leadership failings at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust as patients with suspected cancer were getting lost in the system.

However, the trust has remained tight-lipped on who's is responsible for blunders and will not even say if any staff have faced disciplinary action.

Elected mayor Dorothy Thornhill said: "It's an absolutely legitimate concern. If such a failing happened in the council I would expect people to be held accountable."

Watford MP Richard Harrington criticised past trust management for not identifying the problem sooner.

He said: "It's common sense, if you are doing that job you would chase it up. People have brains, it's not just a system - it was their job.

"I cannot understand why anyone wouldn't have done that and why they didn't naturally follow up on the patients.

"I have written to the chief executive to ask who is still there, who's responsible and could a responsible person have found the error. I also want to know if they are not at the trust, if they are still working in the NHS."

Labour's parliamentary candidate Matt Turmaine said: "It is clear that grave errors have been committed in the management of cancer referrals. It is not acceptable that patients are allowed to drop off a list on the basis of having missed an appointment. Systems and processes should have been in place to ensure that such mistakes don't happen.

"The consequences of this are not just bad admin management, they have directly impacted people's lives. Who was responsible?"

Problems with the way two week urgent cancer referrals were being dealt with were discovered by the trust’s new management team last year.

An investigation found it was breaching national rules as patients who missed their first appointment after being referred were not being offered a second.

The damning report, commissioned by the NHS Trust Development Authority, highlighted a lack of continuity in leadership and ownership to address issues, ineffective relations between the outpatients department and clinical services and confusion and lack between several different managers.

Two managers were suspended in the cancer unit during an internal investigation, one resigned from the trust and the other has been re-instated into a different position.

The trust refuses to say if any disciplinary action has been taken against staff members involved in the failing.

However it confirmed Paul Jenkins, the trust's former director of partnerships, was partially responsibility for two-week-wait cancer referrals for a period - he resigned from the trust and left in April with no exit package.

When asked if any staff had been disciplined, trust chief executive Samantha Jones said: "We followed the appropriate human resources policies and procedures in relation to staff involved in this incident, and for confidentiality reasons we are unable to comment further."

She added: "We welcome the findings from the external review report and will carefully reflect and implement actions. We have recently approved and published a comprehensive cancer improvement plan to build on improvements already underway following our internal review. We will continue this work to deliver against these recommendations to ensure patients see real benefits from improved management of cancer referral pathways.

"I apologise unreservedly to the patients and families affected and wish to assure them that we have already put failsafe mechanisms in place to stop these issues arising again. We have published the report to share the findings with our patients and local community and will continue to work in partnership with local and national health partners to ensure all aspects of the cancer referral pathway can be improved to enhance the patient care experience."

Comments (5)

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9:44am Fri 11 Jul 14

Cuetip says...

Jan Filochowski, chief executive of West Hertfordshire Trust, last year received a salary of £280,000, including bonuses - believed to be the highest amount for any NHS hospital boss on a permanent contract, and twice the annual pay of his predecessor. Mr Filochowski secured the deal in August 2009 after doing the job for 21 months on an "interim" basis, ending up on day rates of £2,200, paid via South East Coast health authority, from which he was seconded. An NHS inquiry into the appointment criticised the trust for giving Mr Filochowski the job running hospitals in Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans without advertising it.

Just wondering with these rates of pay some lose sight of their PRIMARY CARE target as they see the NHS budget as a recipe for focussing on acquiring obese pensions as their top priority. No chance of bed sores.

Please don’t blame the unions and strikes for the massive costly mistakes continuously made by those at the top who love beating up the little guy with pay cuts, reduced flexible hours, increased targets, and highly prejudiced appraisals designed to ensure the few handpicked souls get a few crumbs.
Jan Filochowski, chief executive of West Hertfordshire Trust, last year received a salary of £280,000, including bonuses - believed to be the highest amount for any NHS hospital boss on a permanent contract, and twice the annual pay of his predecessor. Mr Filochowski secured the deal in August 2009 after doing the job for 21 months on an "interim" basis, ending up on day rates of £2,200, paid via South East Coast health authority, from which he was seconded. An NHS inquiry into the appointment criticised the trust for giving Mr Filochowski the job running hospitals in Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans without advertising it. Just wondering with these rates of pay some lose sight of their PRIMARY CARE target as they see the NHS budget as a recipe for focussing on acquiring obese pensions as their top priority. No chance of bed sores. Please don’t blame the unions and strikes for the massive costly mistakes continuously made by those at the top who love beating up the little guy with pay cuts, reduced flexible hours, increased targets, and highly prejudiced appraisals designed to ensure the few handpicked souls get a few crumbs. Cuetip
  • Score: 6

10:53am Fri 11 Jul 14

misty177 says...

you can guarantee it will be the individual at the bottom and on the lowest salary will get the blame. It wont ever be individuals in senior positions as they have already covered their back.
you can guarantee it will be the individual at the bottom and on the lowest salary will get the blame. It wont ever be individuals in senior positions as they have already covered their back. misty177
  • Score: 8

11:46am Fri 11 Jul 14

D_Penn says...

Samantha Jones sounds absolutely typical of many modern managers who chew on PR manuals for breakfast and then spit out the contents whenever the press comes calling. It's the art of talking whilst saying nothing of any value.

She hides behind the old 'confidentiality' argument to avoid giving details when, where a public body of the level of importance that the NHS is to people's lives is concerned, full openness is what is required if we are all to have belief in the integrity of the investigation process. When details are concealed it is inevitable that we all feel that there is a cover up going on and that senior management is protecting itself from criticism.

So sorry Samantha, your statement is simply not good enough and provides no confidence that the issue has been dealt with effectively. If you can't do better than that then you need to get out of the way and let somebody else investigate this properly and report the findings openly so that the public can be certain that their hospitals are being properly managed.
Samantha Jones sounds absolutely typical of many modern managers who chew on PR manuals for breakfast and then spit out the contents whenever the press comes calling. It's the art of talking whilst saying nothing of any value. She hides behind the old 'confidentiality' argument to avoid giving details when, where a public body of the level of importance that the NHS is to people's lives is concerned, full openness is what is required if we are all to have belief in the integrity of the investigation process. When details are concealed it is inevitable that we all feel that there is a cover up going on and that senior management is protecting itself from criticism. So sorry Samantha, your statement is simply not good enough and provides no confidence that the issue has been dealt with effectively. If you can't do better than that then you need to get out of the way and let somebody else investigate this properly and report the findings openly so that the public can be certain that their hospitals are being properly managed. D_Penn
  • Score: 7

12:03pm Fri 11 Jul 14

TRT says...

Ah, Samantha. Labelled as an acute admissions unit. Is that some sort of sexy slang?
Ah, Samantha. Labelled as an acute admissions unit. Is that some sort of sexy slang? TRT
  • Score: 2

6:16pm Fri 11 Jul 14

Kopite47 says...

There was me thinking the NHS was a public body and that we were entitled to know the facts of any wrongdoing. Having seen the abject display of the current head of the Trust on local news all I can say is how did she get the job in the first place. It's hard working tax payers who fund the NHS as our politicians keep telling us. I think we can safely say because of the secrecy involved here the guilty in some cases are still in the organisation and certainly will never pay for their incompetence.
There was me thinking the NHS was a public body and that we were entitled to know the facts of any wrongdoing. Having seen the abject display of the current head of the Trust on local news all I can say is how did she get the job in the first place. It's hard working tax payers who fund the NHS as our politicians keep telling us. I think we can safely say because of the secrecy involved here the guilty in some cases are still in the organisation and certainly will never pay for their incompetence. Kopite47
  • Score: 1

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