Colchester hospital independent cancer inquiry questioned

Colchester General Hospital Colchester General Hospital is being investigated by Essex Police

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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has questioned the independence of an inquiry commissioned by a hospital into its own cancer waiting times.

Colchester General Hospital was found by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to have "inaccuracies" in its data.

An independent inquiry will look at "who knew what, and what they did", the hospital has said.

But the RCN said "the sceptics may be forgiven for doubting this is truly independent".

The CQC's report, which is being looked at by Essex Police, found staff were "pressured or bullied" to change data relating to patients and their treatment to make it seem people were being treated in line with national guidelines.

'Bullying' claims

The inspector said patients' lives may have been put at risk.

Start Quote

The RCN, however, would question whether this investigation can legitimately be called 'independent'”

End Quote Karen Webb RCN regional director

Last week, the RCN claimed its concerns about a "bullying culture" were dismissed as "fantasy" by the hospital in February 2012.

Colchester Hospital said that an internal inquiry at that time "didn't go deep enough".

The new investigation it has commissioned is being led by former deputy chief medical officer of England, Prof Pat Troop, and ex-NHS Suffolk chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown.

Ms Brown left the primary care trust in 2010 and now runs her own coaching and development consultancy, which has worked with other NHS trusts in Essex.

Health regulator Monitor has agreed the terms of the hospital-commissioned independent investigation, the hospital said.

The report will be sent to hospital trust chairman Dr Sally Irvine, who will then consider what action needs to be taken.

Dr Irvine said: "The investigation has been asked to get to the bottom of who knew what, when they knew it and what they did - or did not do - about it.

Independent hospital inquiry

Colchester General Hospital said the investigation would look at:

  • Any case for disciplinary action against any members of staff over their handling of data, or their response to any concerns
  • The effectiveness of the whistle-blowing policy; issues of bullying and harassment
  • The board's approach to assuring itself
  • How "appropriate and complete" was an internal investigation in February 2012

"This will be a far-reaching and detailed investigation but because of the urgency of the situation, I have asked for it to be completed as soon as possible."

The RCN regional director Karen Webb said: "It's quite right that the trust should hold a thorough and open internal investigation into the failings that have harmed both public confidence and staff morale.

"The RCN, however, would question whether this investigation can legitimately be called "independent" when the inquiry and its joint leads have been commissioned by the board of directors at Colchester.

"The board has some very serious questions to answer about its corporate and clinical governance and the sceptics may be forgiven for doubting that an investigation commissioned by the Board to look into the Board's conduct is truly independent."

Essex Police is looking into whether the case warrants a criminal investigation.

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