Inquiry underway into 25 deaths following poor data management by NHS trust
5th July 2012
25 patient deaths will come under thorough scrutiny after records were not properly maintained across four large hospitals in London. Charing Cross Hospital is just one of the four hospitals under the umbrella of one of London’s biggest NHS trusts, Imperial College Healthcare. Due to a number of errors, some patient files had been duplicated, whereas others were opened and not concluded. The mistakes have seen Imperial having to scramble to contact GPs to check if the records they have on system are accurate. After contacting GPs, it was discovered that 74 cancer patients had died. A review group has ruled that 49 of the deaths were not in relation to poor data management and prolonged treatment; however the remaining 25 are still being probed. Imperial first came under fire back in January of this year when it had to admit it was unsure if many cancer patients had been seen or received treatment. They then brazenly informed local authorities that ‘no harm’ had come to them. Figures released though show that the lack of quality record keeping has had an impact on more than 1,000 people who are suspected of having cancer. The problems seemed to be at their worst in February, with roughly 3,500 patients reportedly having to wait over the 18-week NHS target for operations or treatment. Many of these patients had actually been on the waiting list since 2009. Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea Councils hit out at the trust via a jointly written letter and said, “It seems to us there could be a possibility of clinical harm as a result of delays in the diagnosis and commencement of treatment arising from the trust's failings. We are unhappy that the trust appears to have responded to the scrutiny function of local authorities with a lack of openness and transparency.” A spokesman for Imperial tried to defend the trust against the increasing backlash and said, “Our patients' safety has been our absolute priority while we have addressed issues in the way we record our data. We have carried out a thorough clinical review of records of patients that were referred to us for suspected cancer where we had not recorded that the patients had been seen and, where appropriate, treated. To date, we have found no evidence that these patients have come to clinical harm as a result of our poor record keeping.”