Kidderminster Health Care NHS Trust officials say they submitted the wrong waiting list figures because of a mixture of human and computer error. The mistake resulted in Kidderminster being given the lowest one-star rating in every category of surgical waiting times.
While 96 per cent of patients receive oral surgery within a year, the trust submitted figures which suggested only 8 per cent were treated.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said yesterday said the figures had been signed as correct by the chief executive and the hospital's counting system sanctioned by the Audit Commission. 'We have asked them to go back and do a very detailed audit of their figures before they publish changes.'
A five-star performance in treating 100 per cent of gynaecology patients within a year was also masked by a far less impressive 44 per cent figure being sent for the league tables.
Caroline Martin, chief executive, said: 'We were horrified when these came out. We got our in-patient times wrong in the information. That's absolutely our fault and I've already launched an internal inquiry to make sure it never happens again. We don't know how the mistakes were made. We think it's probably a mixture of human error and computer error.
'Inevitably this has drawn attention to the trust, but by being up front about the fact that it was our error we want to put it straight so people are not alarmed. It's ironic because our true figures show we are a good average performer. Quite frankly, we are one of the better hospitals in the West Midlands.'
Miss Martin said the mistake was only uncovered after she signed for the wildly inaccurate figures which were sent to the Health department.
The Kidderminster trust was set up just over a year ago and serves a population of 110,000 in Hereford and Worcester. Most of the 375 beds are at Kidderminster General Hospital and 8,300 operations were carried out last year. While health chiefs sought to reassure staff yesterday, to limit the damage to morale, local people leaving the main accident and emergency unit offered their support for the service.
Glyn Paxton, 33, a quality engineer who injured his knee playing football, said: 'They were not quick but the treatment was good . . . I had to wait 30 minutes to see a doctor for an X-ray and another 30 minutes to see the doctor again.'
Mr Paxton, who needs a ligament reconstruction operation and has been told he will be on the waiting list for a year, added: 'I don't agree with these league tables because the wrong people are being criticised. My opinion is that there aren't enough doctors or nurses, but the Government is to blame for that.
'When my 18-month-old son Freddy swallowed some laurel berries a doctor saw him immediately and the nurses were wonderful - but they were under a lot of pressure and to me that means there were not enough nurses.'
There was immediate treatment yesterday for Adrian Davies, a 31-year-old factory machinist, who was taken to hospital after his arm was badly burnt on a welding machine. 'The arm was blistered and I didn't have to wait at all. They were really polite and dressed and bandaged it within 15 minutes,' said Mr Davies, who called the league table 'a lot of nonsense'.
Patrick Dwyer, branch secretary of Unison whose membership includes 750 nurses, administrative, clerical and ancillary staff, said the incorrect figures could persuade other health authorities to withdraw their business from the trust. 'It would be a pity if these league tables undermine public confidence because our service here is good - it's not perfect but it's also not one of the worst in the country.
'We have had our battles with management but I work here and it definitely isn't a one-star service - I would even say it's above average.
'But what are these figures trying to prove? It all boils down to throughput. If you get a lot of people in and out quickly you are a good performer, but are you giving a quality service? I think the pounds 500,000 would have been far better spent on extra medical and nursing staff.'
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