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Claims that Kettering hospital "fiddled" waiting lists.

Thousands of patients were removed from a hospital's waiting lists in a bid to "fiddle" the system, it is claimed.

Thousands of Kettering General Hospital patients had waited a year or more for operations, an investigation found

A hospital trust governor, David Phelan, claims patients were removed from lists because national targets were being missed.

The hospital admitted there had been anomalies and that a thorough review of data found that 138 patients were harmed - including one who had substantial sight loss - as a result of the long waits.

Mr Phelan, who raised concerns under whistleblowing procedures, was an associate general manager in the trauma and orthopaedics department when he discovered discrepancies in the referral-to-treatment time (RTT) data in October 2015.

He warned managers that the daily RTT report was understating the true position by half when checked against patient records and discovered that Kettering General Hospital managers had used six exclusion categories to remove patients from their official waiting list data.

He claims that the trust manipulated the figures to avoid being fined for patients waiting longer than 52 weeks. The NHS regulator issues fines for breaches of waiting times per patient.

House sale consultant, Andy Hames, 45, from Corby, who had been suffering from a painful prostate complaint, is among the forgotten patients.

He said: "I went for my pre-operation at Kettering General Hospital. I was told then the operation would be performed within two weeks. Two weeks passed and no notice of the operation.

"After a year had passed, went to my GP who complained. They chased it up and the operation was carried out a couple of weeks after. During that year I was suffering discomfort. It was hard to urinate."

Mr Hames, who has since recovered, said he was never told he had been dropped from the list but is angry that he was forced to suffer so long.

An inspection report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said when the data problems were identified, the number of patients found to be waiting more than 52 weeks had leapt from eight to 25,000.

The hospital, which has a £25m deficit, has spent more than £3m searching a million records to establish the true number of people waiting for treatment. It was put into special measures by the regulator as it tries to clear the backlog.

A hospital spokesman said: "We suspended reporting of our waiting list data to the Department of Health in December 2015 when we became aware of anomalies which suggested there could be some issues with our systems.

"In March 2017 we returned to reporting our waiting list data. We are confident we have now addressed our data quality issues and that our waiting list data is reliable."

Kettering General Hospital's chief operating officer, Rebecca Brown, said: "I want to reassure our patients that throughout this period, in the vast majority of cases, patients' treatment pathways have progressed as normal.

"However the intensive review of our waiting list data and systems has found, as of May 21st 2017, 282 patients who have waited more than a year (52 weeks) to be seen.     

"This is unacceptable and we profoundly regret that these cases were not seen much earlier."