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Hertfordshire trust apologises over cancer errors

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More than 800 patients suspected of having cancer could have had their diagnosis delayed because of an administrative error, a hospital trust has admitted.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust said at least one person may have died as a result of the mistakes and 121 patients are still yet to have their case reviewed.

Between January 2010 and November 2013 patients who failed to turn up for their first appointment after being urgently referred for cancer tests were not always offered a second appointment and in some cases were discharged by the trust - which contravenes NHS guidelines.

In total, 810 patients have been contacted by the trust to have their cases reviewed and of those 686 have been told there are no clinical concerns over their care.

But the trust admitted that the delay in seeing one patient may have contributed to their death, while the death of another patient whose diagnosis was delayed is not thought to have been preventable. The trust has apologised to the families of both patients.

The trust, which is made up of Hemel Hempstead Hospital, Watford General Hospital and St Albans City Hospital, discovered the error following the launch of its new management team in November.

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

Samantha Jones

Samantha Jones

“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.”

The trust said it has since implemented a new IT system, retrained staff and holds daily reviews of all patients who miss cancer appointments.

The trust said it was “confident” it has contacted everyone affected by the errors.


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