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Care Quality Commission recommends Essex hospital trust is put into special measures

5 November 2013
  • Media

5 November 2013

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals has recommended Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust should be placed into special measures.

Professor Sir Mike Richards’ call follows serious concerns, highlighted during a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection, regarding the quality of some services for cancer patients at the trust.

The concerns and the recommendation have been referred to Monitor, the sector regulator for health services in England.

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

In its inspection report, published today, CQC says some hospital staff reported they were pressured to change data relating to patients and their treatment to make it seem people were being treated in line with national guidelines. As a result some patients may not have had the treatment they needed in time.

Staff also reported having raised concerns about this but that this information was not acted upon by the trust.

CQC has also referred its findings to Essex police.

This week Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust has written to 30 patients, or their next of kin, where patients have died, offering to review their treatment.

CQC’s inspection, which took place during August and September, followed information of concern which had been received about the treatment of patients from the end of 2011.

Inspectors spent six days at the hospital talking to patients and staff. When inspectors checked the national cancer waiting times system against patient records, they found discrepancies in the records and types of treatment recorded for some cancer patients.

Of the 61 care records examined, 22 showed that people had been placed at risk of receiving care that was unsafe or not effective, due to delays in receiving appointments or treatment.  The records related to people receiving treatment for urological cancers, cancers of the lower and upper gastrointestinal systems, and those of the head, neck, breast and skin.

In some cases, CQC identified, people did not get their treatment within the required 62 days and in three cases delays exceeded 100 days.

Even though an internal investigation in 2012 identified concerns, the trust failed to investigate the allegations thoroughly or follow up with the patients who were affected. Staff alleged that they had been pressured, or bullied to change data.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards said: "If you are diagnosed with cancer - you are entitled to think that your hospital will do all they can to ensure you get treatment you need as soon as possible. It is shocking to think that people's lives may have been put at risk for the sake of the waiting time figures.

"Every year around six thousand people go to Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust to be treated for cancer. It is essential that people in north Essex can have confidence in their hospital.

"Clearly this report raises questions over the safety and effectiveness of these services. But it also raises questions at the highest level. We have found that the concerns raised by staff in relation to changes made to people’s cancer pathways were not appropriately managed or investigated by senior staff of the Trust, which is why I am now recommending that this trust should be placed in special measures.”

The concerns were highlighted to CQC by the team carrying out inspections as part of Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of NHS trusts, who had been contacted by a whistleblower.

Professor Sir Mike Richards added: “We have only been able to consider taking action because of the hospital staff who came forward to raise their concerns in the first place. It’s thanks to them that we can ensure that the service is better in future. 

"We have referred our findings to NHS England, the local authority, commissioning teams as well as Monitor and we look to them to provide the assurance that the services are safe and effective for everyone when they need them."

Adam Cayley, Regional Director for Monitor said: “Monitor has been working closely with the CQC over its concerns in relation to this trust, and we have identified risks in the way that the trust is run.

“We have therefore opened a formal investigation into whether it has breached the conditions of its licence, and we will consider putting the trust into special measures as part of any regulatory action we may take to protect its patients.

“Meanwhile, Monitor is working with its partners to ensure the trust takes appropriate action to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all patients currently using the cancer pathway. We have also asked the trust to implement a look-back review to establish whether there is a risk that other patients did not receive treatment in accordance with national standards in recent years.”


For further media enquiries please contact Louise Grifferty, regional communications manager, on 07717 422917, or Helen Gildersleeve, regional communications officer, on 0191 233 3379. 

CQC’s press office is also available on 020 7448 9401 during office hours or out of hours on 07917 232 143.  

For general enquiries, call 03000 61 61 61.

Notes to editors

The full report of the inspection can be found at: Colchester General Hospital

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust provides cancer services and treatment to approximately 6000 patients across north Essex each year. Our inspection looked at a sample of patients who were urgently referred to the cancer service and/or had treatment at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust from the end of 2011 to the present day. The sample of records examined was a small percentage in terms of the number of people who use cancer services provided by the trust.

About Monitor

Monitor is the sector regulator for health services in England. Our job is to protect and promote the interests of patients by ensuring that the whole sector works for their benefit. We exercise a range of powers granted by Parliament which include setting and enforcing a framework of rules for providers and commissioners, implemented in part through licences we issue to NHS-funded providers.

Last updated:
30 May 2017