The NHS trust in charge of St Albans City Hospital “faces some of the most significant challenges of any trust in the country” according to the city’s MP, following the publication of an extensive report in to cancer referral failings.
St Albans MP Anne Main said West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust “must learn from its mistakes” after an independent external review showed it has breached national guidelines by not always giving patients another appointment when they did not attend their first appointment in the two-week wait cancer pathway.
In a statement released by Mrs Main’s office, she said: “I welcome the report which has been thorough in its findings and detailed in its recommendations.
“What was concerning was the lack of leadership highlighted in the report and the delay in action when practices fell below standards.”
The Trust identified three patients potentially harmed by the failings in the administrative system for cancer appointments – two of those patients had died.
The failings came to light when staff were given training in managing cancer referrals after a GP made a formal complaint to the chief executives office in November 2012.
Stephen Ramsden, chair of the independent panel and author of the report, found that there were systemic issues around booking processes exacerbated by demand and capacity issues and managing cancer services across complex Trust sites, there were inconsistencies in reviewing patient notes, cancer referrals and clinical outcomes.
The report also found that there was lack of clear management arrangements, a lack of training and knowledge of the guidance regarding cancer two week wait referrals and there were limited safety net systems in primary care and commissioning.
Mrs Main added: “Further to my recent letter to the Department of Health, the Minister confirmed the Trust Development Authority recognises that the Trust faces some of the most significant challenges of any trust in the country, because of historic failings.
“I understand that the Trust has already taken steps to improve the way cancer patients are dealt with, and are going to further reflect and implement recommendations from the panel. I will be monitoring this situation very closely.
“Stephen Ramsden said in the report that a “more patient-focussed approach was needed”- I would have thought this would be a basic tenet or our National Health Service. The Trust must learn from its mistakes.
“As the clinical review progresses I will continue to make the case for St Albans and ensure the voice of local residents is heard.”