An independent investigation has found no evidence of staff being instructed to manipulate cancer waiting times data at Colchester University Hospital Foundation Trust.
A separate retrospective review of cancer care at the trust between April 2010 and March 2014, also published today, found “no evidence of systematic, deliberate data manipulation”.
It found 16 cases of possible deliberate and inappropriate data entry, but it could not could identify intent to deliberately falsify the figures.
Both investigations were launched last year, following allegations that staff felt pressurised into changing data. Police in Essex also launched a formal investigation into the allegations.
“It is reassuring to find that there is no evidence of staff being bullied into changing cancer data”
The independent investigation, which was commissioned by the foundation trust regulator Monitor, found “no evidence to support the view that there is a systemic culture of bullying in the trust and this suggestion was strongly rejected by the staff and their representatives”.
However, some staff said “they considered that there were some parts of the trust where staff had experienced bullying behaviour by an individual manager”, which “may not always have been quickly identified and remedied by the trust”.
Staff became concerned about the introduction of a new validation process for cancer data in 2011, the invesitgation found.
It found Mark Jarman-Howe, the then associate director of cancer services, failed to adequately explain his decisions for changing data, “which in some cases were difficult to explain and not understood by colleagues”.
“We concluded that this lack of engagement was the causal factor in the initial escalation of the concerns outside the normal line management arrangements,” the report stated.
It also found that in preliminary investigation into staff concerns, carried out by the trust’s former finance director Mike Baker in February 2012, was “flawed and mismanaged”. The outcome of the investigation was also “haphazardly communicated to other executive colleagues”.
Because the key managers linked to the issue were no longer employed by the trust, the report stated that it would be “inappropriate” to take disciplinary action against managers who were currently there.
Meanwhile, the review into cancer care found “a number of small discrepancies between recorded and actual patient data”.
However, it concluded they were”most likely to be the result of minor, but erroneous interpretations” of the cancer waiting guidelines, which “sometimes made waiting times appear longer than in reality and sometimes shorter”.
It found evidence of poor documentation and record keeping at the trust, which included data entry errors, misinterpretation of national guidance, operating process issues, poor information sharing and poor record keeping.
It also identified a number of patients who had received “suboptimal care, diagnosis or treatment”.
Adam Cayley, Monitor’s regional director, said the report “should bring a very difficult chapter in the history of this trust to a close.
“It is reassuring to find that there is no evidence of staff being bullied into changing cancer data, but it is even clearer that there were serious managerial failures at the trust,” he said.
“The new management team at the hospital is already delivering improvements for patients – a process we expect to see continue,” he added.
Trust chief executive Lucy Moore said the Monitor-commissioned investigation “gives reassurance” that no evidence of data manipulation or of systematic culture of bullying was found at the trust.
She said the trust apologised unreservedly to any of patients who suffered delays in treatment, diagnosis or received poor care, and that was in contact with all patients who received significant sub-optimal care.