Advising with empathy and experience

NHS loses cancer patient records.


Britain’s largest NHS trust, Imperial Healthcare Trust, kept thousands of patients in the dark following the loss of their medical records. 2500 patients had their waiting times extended while the trust had no idea whether 3000 cancer patients had undergone vital, potentially life saving tests.

The trust then reported that “no harm” had been done by this failing and it deliberately chose not to tell GPs about the loss of records until five months after the problems were identified.  

Despite the trusts insistence that no harm had been done it was revealed that 74 patients with lost records have died.  Doctors checking the records have ruled that in 49 cases the delay in gaining medical records did not contribute to their deaths, 24 are still under review and it was reported that in one death the delay may have been a contributory factor, but at present this was inconclusive, more information is being sought.

Dr Tony Grewal made several referrals to Imperial College and was outraged at the findings, stating “The trust should have contacted us as soon as it was recognised that patients with potentially serious illnesses had been failed by a system.”

In a statement made to The Daily Telegraph Westminster councillor Sarah Richardson “Managers were more worried about their reputation than about patient safety. In a public forum they said no-one had come to harm. We believe they deliberately misled the council”.

The chief executive of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, added: “This is unacceptable for any patient who has had any investigation, but especially patients awaiting cancer results, where every day counts… It’s unfair on the patients to have this stress and worry, and the trust should not have tried to hide the fact that they had lost these records”.

A trust spokeswoman responded to the outcry, insisting there was “no correlation between the reason for death and the data reporting issue”. It was also reported that Imperial has been fined £1 million by NHS North West London for the failures which had built since mid 2008.

Imperial’s chief executive Mark Davis admitted that the failings were “not acceptable” and went on to state “I am only too aware that both the poor standard of record keeping in the past and the measures we have had to take to address this may have resulted in concern for patients and their families and I would like to apologise unequivocally for any distress that might have been caused.”

Kim Daniells of the CNCI team said “it is difficult to comprehend the extent of systematic failure that can result in the loss of so many records over such a long period. That a respected Trust can have opted to protect its reputation rather than act to alert GPs is astonishing and appalling”