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Trust placed in 'special measures' over cancer care concerns

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Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust has been placed in “special measures” by regulators after a recent report said staff had been “bullied” into changing cancer records.

A formal investigation by the health sector regulator Monitor concluded the trust had breached its licence to provide health services

As a result, it has been put it into special measures to “ensure all its patients receive good quality care”, Monitor said in a statement issued today.  

Under the process, Monitor has ordered the trust to put right concerns surrounding cancer care that were highlighted by the Care Quality Commission last week.

An improvement director will be appointed by Monitor to ensure the trust “turns itself around” and another foundation trust will be asked to offer support in delivering improvements to the cancer pathway.

NHS England is also working with the trust to conduct a review of its cancer services to assure patients that past practices complied with national standards.

Colchester was part of the Keogh review into trusts with higher than average mortality rates earlier this year. As the time, Monitor stopped short of putting it into special measures because the regulator was confident the trust leadership could tackle the issues raised at that stage.

Subsequently, a whistleblower came forward and highlighted concerns about the trust’s management of its cancer pathway.

The CQC inspection that followed highlighted claims by staff that they were “bullied and pressured” into changing patient data to help meet cancer treatment waiting targets.

Inspectors found a number of cancer patients may have suffered undue delays in treatment as a result, and there were inaccuracies with waiting time data relating to cancer treatment.

This sparked Professor Sir Mike Richards, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, to recommend to Monitor that the trust be put into special measures.

Adam Cayley, Midlands and East regional director for Monitor, said: “We have stepped in formally to assure the health and wellbeing of patients using the cancer pathway at Colchester. The trust has been given an explicit set of actions to improve the service it offers patients.”

In response to the announcement, the trust’s chief executive Dr Gordon Coutts reiterated his apology over the cancer care concerns raised by the CQC.

He said: “We are continuing to address all of the concerns that were raised. The additional advice and support that we will receive as a result of the announcement by Monitor will help us to make the improvements that are needed quickly and effectively.”

Among the actions taken by the trust itself include a review of its cancer pathways and bringing in external experts to work alongside its own staff in the running of its cancer services.

Trust medical director Dr Sean MacDonnell has also written to all cancer nurse specialists, service managers and tumour site leads to ensure they follow national cancer waiting time guidance.

In addition, the trust’s leaders announced on Monday they had commissioned an independent investigation into the issues raised in the CQC report.


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