There is no evidence of staff being told to manipulate cancer waiting times data at Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust, an independent investigation commissioned by Monitor has found.

A separate review, commissioned by the trust, of cancer care between April 2010 and March 2014, also published today, found “no evidence of systematic, deliberate data manipulation”.

It found 16 cases of possible deliberate and inappropriate data entry, but it could not identify intent to deliberately falsify the figures.

Colchester Hospital University FT

The Monitor report states it would be ‘inappropriate’ to take disciplinary action against managers who still at the trust

Both investigations were launched last year, following allegations that staff felt pressured into changing data.

The trust was placed in special measures in November 2013 following the allegations, and later that month police launched an investigation into the allegations.

The Monitor commissioned investigation found “no evidence to support the view that there is a systemic culture of bullying in the trust and this suggestion was strongly rejected by the staff and their representatives”.

However, some staff said “they considered that there were some parts of the trust where staff had experienced bullying behaviour by an individual manager” which “may not always have been quickly identified and remedied by the trust”.

Staff became concerned about the introduction of a new validation process for cancer data in 2011, the investigation found. It found that the then associate director of clinical support services and cancer, Mark Jarman-Howe, failed to adequately explain his decisions for changing data “which in some cases were difficult to explain and not understood by colleagues”.

“We concluded that this lack of engagement was the causal factor in the initial escalation of the concerns outside the normal line management arrangements,” the report found.

It also found that in preliminary investigation carried out by the trust’s then finance director Mike Baker in February 2012 into staff concerns was “flawed and mismanaged”. The outcome of the investigation was also “haphazardly communicated to other executive colleagues”.

Because the main people involved in management of this issue were no longer employed by the trust, the report said that it would be “inappropriate” to take disciplinary action against managers who were still there.

The FT commissioned review found evidence of poor documentation and record keeping at the trust, which included data entry errors, misinterpretation of national guidance, operating process issues, poor information sharing and poor record keeping.

It also said there were “a number of small discrepancies between recorded and actual patient data”, but concluded these were “most likely to be the result of minor, but erroneous interpretations” of the cancer waiting guidelines, which “sometimes made waiting times appear longer than in reality and sometimes shorter”.

It also identified a number of patients who had received “suboptimal care, diagnosis or treatment”.

Adam Cayley, Monitor’s regional director, said its report “should bring a very difficult chapter in the history of this trust to a close”.

“It is reassuring to find that there is no evidence of staff being bullied into changing cancer data, but it is even clearer that there were serious managerial failures at the trust,” he said.

“The new management team at the hospital is already delivering improvements for patients – a process we expect to see continue.”       

Trust chief executive Lucy Moore said the Monitor commissioned investigation “gives reassurance to our patients, their relatives and our local community” that there was no evidence of data manipulation or of systematic culture of bullying at the trust.

She said the trust “apologies[s] unreservedly to any of our patients who suffered delays in treatment or diagnosis or who have received poor care” and it is in contact with all patients who received poor care.