Hospital accused of losing pounds 300,000 (CORRECTED)

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The Independent Online

A CONFIDENTIAL leaked report into one of London's largest hospitals claims that more than pounds 300,000 was lost in its running of the mortuary and seems to corroborate claims made by a whistleblower who was sacked for disclosing concerns about hospital management to his union.

Officials from Barnet General Hospital, which is now part of the Wellhouse Trust, have denied on several occasions having any knowledge of an audit into the mortuary. They now claim that the hospital has lost its copy.

The secret report by auditors Deloitte, Haskins & Sells discloses 'some major discrepancies' in the running of Barnet hospital mortuary in the 20 years up until 1984. It corroborates evidence published in the Independent earlier this year which indicated that Barnet had lost more than pounds 300,000 from the mortuary because it did not charge the coroner for doing post-mortem examinations. Some of these examinations were carried out with a mortuary technician undertaking certain procedures unsupervised. The technician, Ivan Biddle, was sacked for bringing his concerns to the attention of his union.

The Deloitte's report, which was recently leaked to the Independent, finds that the hospital breached NHS standing orders on 13 occasions. It states that the pathologist, who was earning as much as pounds 18,000 from the coroner's post-mortem examinations, should have declared some of his fees to the hospital. Most seriously, it accused the hospital of writing-off the lost pounds 300,000 in its accounts, contrary to Department of Health rules.

As a result of Mr Biddle's allegations, the Audit Commission has begun an inquiry.


Barnet General Hospital

In our edition of 13 November we carried a story headlined Hospital accused of losing pounds 300,000, referring to Barnet General Hospital. We should have made it clear in that story that managers at the hospital strenuously denied that pounds 300,000 had been lost and that they said this figure was an estimate based on the total amount of money that might have been claimed from the local authority over a 17-year period had the local authority agreed to make a payment for the use of the hospital mortuary for coroners' postmortems. In the event, when the local authority was approached, they said they would move postmortems to their own mortuary rather than pay a charge.