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Police investigate claims NHS staff were bullied into falsifying cancer waiting times

Police are investigating allegations that hospital staff were “pressurised or bullied” into falsifying data after the Care Quality Commission found inaccuracies with waiting time data for cancer treatment at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, with the CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals suggesting that the trust wanted to give the impression it was meeting its waiting list targets, which may have put lives at risk.

Out of 61 care records examined, 22 showed that patients had been put at “risk of receiving care that was unsafe or not effective, due to delays in receiving appointments or treatment”, according to the CQC. Staff had told the inspectors that they were pressured and bullied to change data about patient’s treatment to make it seem like people were being treated in line with the national guidelines, meaning that some patients did not get their treatment within the national target of two months, with some patients having to wait more than three months to receive treatment.

The CQC has now asked Monitor, the regulator for foundation trusts, to put the trust into special measures.
Dr Sean MacDonnell, medical director of the trust, has said “On behalf of the trust, I apologise to the patients, relatives and carers who we have let down. We are very sorry for the worry, distress and concerns that have been raised by the publication of the CQC report…our priority is to focus on the safety and welfare of call cancer patients”.

However, Karen Webb, regional director for the eastern region at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), has claimed that she raised concerns about the “bullying culture, the secrecy of the management culture” at Colchester Hospital a year ago but her and fellow RCN members were dismissed as “fantasists” and the board of the hospital had tried to bully them into “shutting up”.
“I think there were a few things that smell rather unpleasant about Colchester General and the way that it is being led,” Ms Webb said.

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