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HOSPITAL BLUNDER COULD HAVE LED TO TWO DEATHS

 Published on: 5th February 2014   |   By: The Newsdesk   |   Category:

An administrative blunder at Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals could have resulted in the death of two patients it was revealed today. In November 2013, West Herts Hospital NHS Trust’s new management team found that the process of monitoring patients referred with suspected cancer was not always followed in line with NHS guidelines. This related specifically to patients who had missed their initial outpatient appointment. The Trust has contacted 810 people this week to let them know their care has been reviewed.  Of these, 686 have been told there are no clinical concerns about the care they received. The review, which covers people who were initially referred for urgent appointments between January 2010 and November 2013, showed that the Trust had discharged some patients following a single appointment.  This contravenes NHS rules as they should have been offered a second appointment. The 810 people have been written to because the Trust wants to be open about the administrative error and to let them know they have proactively reviewed their patient record. They have also apologised for any anxiety and distress caused. More than 100 people have been told that their case is still being reviewed.  Much of this work is being undertaken in partnership with their GP or dentist. The Trust have met one person whose diagnosis was delayed because the proper process was not being followed. They have also met the family of a patient who has since died.  The Trust’s clinical view is that a delay in seeing the patient may have contributed to their death. The Trust is also in the process of contacting the family of another patient who has since died.  This patient was already at an advanced stage of their illness when the initial referral was made. Apologies have been offered to both families and support will be provided. Samantha Jones, the Trust’s Chief Executive, said: “It is absolutely clear that the Trust was not always following the correct administrative processes for these patients and we let them down. “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.” Hertfordshire MPs Richard Harrington, Mike Penning, James Clappison and Anne Main have released a joint statement on the issue. They say: “There is absolutely no doubt that the Trust’s failure to follow the correct administrative process for urgent referrals is unacceptable, and deeply wrong. That there have been such tragic consequences makes this so much worse and, first and foremost, our thoughts must be with the people personally affected by this and the families who have been contacted with this news in recent weeks. “Changes have already been made to the way the Trust are referring and following up on patient appointments, so this will not happen again. “The serious question that needs to be asked is why this was not picked up earlier. “We will be keeping in touch with the Trust over the coming weeks to ensure that investigations continue to the highest possible standard and that improvements continue to be made, but remain deeply concerned that the previous management allowed this to happen and feel strongly that there must be accountability for these mistakes once the inquiries are complete.” The Trust has reviewed all complaints, serious incidents and legal claims which relate to its cancer services to assure itself that there was not a wider problem. For more, see February’s My Watford News.

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