More than 800 patients suspected of having cancer may have had their diagnosis and treatment delayed owing to failings at West Hertfordshire NHS Trust.
The Trust has been investigated after concerns were raised that the administrative process of monitoring suspected cancer patients did not always follow NHS guidelines.
Between January 2010 and November 2013, a number of patients who were referred for urgent cancer tests were not always offered a second appointment if they failed to attend their initial one and, in some cases, were subsequently discharged from the Trust, breaching NHS rules.
Following the investigation, 686 of the 810 patients affected have been told by the Trust that there are no clinical concerns about the care they received. However, 121 cases are still under review.
The Trust has admitted that the delay in seeing one patient may have contributed to their death. A second patient, who was at an advanced stage of illness at the time of referral, has also died.
The incorrect administration came to light in November 2013 when the Trust’s new chief executive, Sam Jones, asked for a review of the system in place for booking cancer appointments.
Linda Millband, a senior clinical negligence solicitor at Thompsons, said: “NHS guidelines are there to ensure that patients receive the highest standard of care at the appropriate time. Failure to follow those guidelines has potentially devastating consequences.
“This is not the first time we have seen systems in place to protect patients fail. We only have to look at the case of Dr Ian Paterson to see the damage and distress those failures cause.
“Completing the review as fast as possible is key for the 121 patients still waiting for reassurance. Ensuring that the correct processes are in place so that this never happens again must be an outcome too.”
All patients affected by the review have been informed. However, a dedicated information line has been set up for anyone with concerns: 01923 217100.
The line is open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.
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