Probe into 25 patient deaths after Trust 'poor record keeping' led to treatment delays
Hundreds of patient records found to be incomplete earlier this yearReview group investigating whether treatment delays played a part in 25 patient deaths86 patients referred for possible cancer diagnosis still unaccounted forDepartment of Health says situation was 'completely unacceptable' while Councillor brands Trust's actions as 'dangerous and irresponsible'

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UPDATED:

10:16 GMT, 5 July 2012

The deaths of 25 patients are being reviewed after a leading London NHS Trust admitted 'poor record keeping' meant they had lost track of hundreds of patients.

Three local authorities said they were 'extremely concerned' after Imperial College Healthcare admitted 900 patients records were incomplete back in May.

A review group was set up to look at 74 affected patients who had since died.
Doctors have so far found that delays caused by data issues did not
cause harm in 49 cases, however 25 cases are still being investigated.

Charing Cross Hospital is one of four covered by Imperial College Healthcare

Charing Cross Hospital is one of four covered by Imperial College Healthcare

At the height of the problem in February around 3,500
patients were waiting for longer than the 18-week target for treatments
or operations.

It has emerged that some cancer patients ended up on a waiting list for up to two years when they should have been seen within a fortnight.

The Trust has also been unable to get
in contact with 86 people who were referred for a possible cancer
diagnosis after letters sent to their last known addresses in May went
unanswered.

It means potentially that dozens of cancer patients may have died or suffered complications as a result of mismanagement.

The problems first emerged in January after the Trust admitted finding that hundreds of patient records were incomplete. Files on some patients were opened but not closed while others were duplicated.

A joint letter from Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea Councils said they were unhappy that the Trust had responded to their resulting scrutiny with a 'lack of openness and transparency.'

Councillor Sarah Richardson of the Health Policy Scrutiny Committee at Westminster Council, told Mail Online: 'Imperial College NHS Trust have acted dangerously and irresponsibly by allowing patients entrusted to their care suffer a possible deterioration of their condition.

'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 Trust runs four London hospitals: Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea and St Mary's.

Doctor using tablet computer

The Department of Health said the errors 'may have caused distress and uncertainty for vulnerable patients'

A spokeswoman for the Trust says they don't believe any patients have come to serious harm as a result of the lost data.

'To date we have found no evidence that these patients have come to clinical harm as a result of our poor record keeping,' she said.

'We are extremely sorry that this situation was not identified and resolved earlier.'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'The situation at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust was completely unacceptable, and may have caused distress and uncertainty for vulnerable patients.

'That's why when we became aware of this situation in April we sought assurances that this would become an urgent part of the work being undertaken by a team of external experts who were working within the Trust.

'Those experts have helped the Trust to make sure that the right processes are in place so patients should get the care they need, when they need it in future. We will continue to monitor the situation.'