The results of an investigation into an administrative blunder that delayed cancer care for hundreds of people and possibly caused one sufferer to die will be published next week.
Since it was discovered in March, former NHS chief executive Stephen Ramsden has been exploring what led to the error by managers of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust. His independent report will come out on Monday.
Following an internal review by the Trust that began in November, two of its managers were suspended.
Chief executive Samantha Jones and her team had discovered that patients with suspected cancer who missed their initial urgent outpatient appointment were not offered a second appointment in line with NHS rules. They were instead discharged.
The error affected 810 people between January 2010 and November 2013. Although 686 of those were told there are no clinical concerns about their care, 121 were told in February that their case is still being reviewed.
Mr Ramsden will brief journalists on his report’s key findings at 8am on Monday before Trust chiefs say how they will act on them.
Back in February, hospital bosses said they had already met the family of a patient who has since died. It is the Trust’s clinical view that a delay in seeing the person may have contributed to their death.
The remaining 121 patients affected by the admin error have now been contacted – after the Trust reviewed what had happened to them. The Trust has told them it has no clinical concerns about the care they received in relation to its internal review.
Mr Ramsden’s external investigation will go into further detail about what happened and what is being done about it when it is published on Monday.
Speaking back in February, Ms Jones said: “Our trust systems have failed and we have failed our patients in the delivery of cancer care.
“It is an issue that we are taking extremely seriously.
“My reaction is one of complete apology for the patients we have let down – that has absolutely been mine and the team’s focus.
“We have concentrated on putting right the systems that we should have in place and we have done that, and we are supporting the staff who have been through a difficult time and are being trained.”
Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning praised Ms Jones and her team for finding the problem and tackling it ‘head on, but said patients had been ‘badly let down’.
He said: “What particularly concerns me is that the problems began under the previous chief executive who has since been promoted to a high-profile role at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
“A national review is needed to make sure that the problem is not being repeated elsewhere and that no more patients are let down in this way.”