NHS 'cover-up' over lost cancer patient records

Thousands awaiting treatment were kept in the dark for five months when data disappeared

Britain's largest NHS trust took five months to tell patients it had mislaid medical records for thousands of people waiting for cancer tests and other urgent treatments. Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust discovered in January that a serious computer problem and staff mistakes had played havoc with patient waiting lists.

About 2,500 patients were forced to wait longer on the waiting lists than the NHS's targets, and the trust had no idea whether another 3,000 suspected cancer patients on the waiting list had been given potentially life-saving tests. Despite the fact that the trust discovered discrepancies in January and was forced to launch an internal review into the mess, including 74 cases where patients died, it did not tell GPs about the lost records until May.

Revelations about the delay prompted a furious response yesterday from GPs, local authorities and patients' groups. Dr Tony Grewal, one of the GPs who had made referrals to Imperial, said doctors should have been told sooner to allow them to trace patients whose records were missing. "The trust should have contacted us as soon as it was recognised that patients with potentially serious illnesses had been failed by a system," he said. "GPs hold the ultimate responsibility for their patient care."

The chief executive of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, added: "This is unacceptable for any patient who has had any investigation, but especially patients awaiting cancer results, where every day counts. The trust has a duty to contact GPs who referred the patients. It's unfair on the patients to have this stress and worry, and the trust should not have tried to hide the fact that they had lost these records. They should have let the GPs know at the outset."

The trust defended the delay in alerting GPs, arguing that it needed to check accurately how much data it had lost before making the matter public. It said a clinical review had now concluded that no one died as a result of patients waiting longer for tests or care.

Despite this, three London councils – Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham – are deeply critical of the way the trust handled the data loss. Sarah Richardson, a Westminster councillor who heads the council's health scrutiny committee, said that trust bosses had attempted to "cover up" the extent of the debacle. "Yes, they've done what they can but, in doing so, [they] put the reputation of the trust first," she said. "Rather than share it with the GPs, patients and us, they thought how can we manage this information internally. They chose to consider their reputation over patient care."

Last week, it was revealed that Imperial has been fined £1m by NHS North West London for the failures that led to patient data going missing. On Wednesday, an external review into the lost records said a "serious management failure" was to blame for the blunder.

Imperial's chief financial officer, Bill Shields, admitted at a meeting with the councils that the letter could have been produced more quickly. He said that, at the time, the trust had operated with "antiquated computer systems" and had a "light-touch regime" on elective waiting times.

Terry Hanafin, the leading management consultant who wrote the report, said the data problems went back to 2008 and had built up over almost four years until mid-2011. Mr Hanafin said the priorities of senior managers at that time were the casualty department and finance.

He further concluded that while the delays in care turned out to be non-life threatening, they had the potential to cause pain, distress and, in the case of cancer patients, "more serious consequences".

Imperial's chief executive, Mark Davies, admitted yesterday that the failings of the systems, management and record-keeping between 2008 and 2011 were "clearly not acceptable". He added: "I am only too aware that both the poor standard of record-keeping in the past and the measures we have had to take to address this may have resulted in concern for patients and their families, and I would like to apologise unequivocally for any distress that might have been caused."

The trust said it had found no evidence of clinical harm and stressed that new systems have now been implemented to record patient data. It denied trying to cover up its mistakes or put its reputation before concerns for patients. "Patient safety is always our top priority," said a spokesman.

Suggested Topics
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
i100
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little