800 Cancer Patients Wrongly Discharged

Hundreds Of People Suspected Of Having Cancer Were Discharged Following A "Blunder".

05.02.2014

More than 800 people that were referred to hospital for cancer treatment were wrongly discharged, it has emerged.

An investigation has now been launched by the NHS to figure out how the patients, who were in need of urgent referral to hospitals in the Hertfordshire area, were allowed to be removed from waiting lists.

Two managers at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) have been suspended, with more than 120 cases under review.

It has since emerged that at least two of the 800 people wrongly discharged have since died of their cancer.

A spokesperson for WHHT said diagnosis of the patients was delayed because "due process" was not followed. The representative also apologised for the delays, but noted that in most cases the cancers were still found at an early stage.

"We have also met the family of a patient who has since died. Our clinical view is that a delay in seeing the patient may have contributed to their death, but it is not certain."

A number of changes have since been put in place at WHHT to prevent these kinds of breaches from happening again in the future, including an IT system that aims to track each of the patients' appointments.

Weekly meetings will also be held in an attempt to improve the management of treatment courses for those diagnosed with cancer, while training courses will also be put in place for doctors and nurses employed on oncology wards.

Samantha Jones, chief executive of WHHT, said: "These concerns date back a number of years and were identified as part of the new management team's commitment to improve [practices]."

It was recently announced WHHT was one of the trusts being looked into by watchdogs for higher than expected mortality rates, according to the Daily Telegraph.

While this does not indicate a certain problem - as many trusts have coincidental rises and falls in deaths annually - the authorities may consider this latest cancer scandal in their auditing processes.

Expert Opinion
Whilst there have been a number of changes put in place to prevent these issues happening again, this is a completely unacceptable way to treat patients.

“For over 800 individuals to have their lives immediately put at risk by wrongfully removing them off the waiting list is an extremely serious issue and for two lives to be lost because of failings is a very sad situation indeed.

“Early diagnosis is absolutely vital to ensure the treatment options are maximised which will mean the patients chances of survival from many types of cancer improve greatly.

“We welcome any improvements within the NHS that will stop serious breaches like this one happening again. These patients deserve the best care available to them, delivered with greater transparency and as soon as possible."
Mandy Luckman, Partner