• Five patients found to have “possible missed cancers” as backlog of endoscopy patients builds up
  • King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust orders mass outsourcing to other providers as facilities struggle to cope
  • Patient harm review so far examined care of 90 patients

A serious incident has been declared at a trust after a backlog in scans delayed five patients’ cancer diagnosis.

Hundreds of patients have missed the two-week urgent referral target in endoscopy at King’s College Hospital FT.

The London trust said five adverse incidents had been flagged “in relation to possible missed cancers”. It later added these were patients identified as having had a delay to their diagnosis.

A harm review was commissioned in April and the trust confirmed this week that some people had waited 33 weeks for their appointment.

As of 23 June, 96 patients had been through the harm review process, led by the trust’s medical director Julia Wendon.

The most recent validated data showed 503 patients had waited longer than six weeks for treatment.

The trust approved a £1.5m plan for additional scopes and a decontamination facility, provided by the firm Vanguard, in June.

The problem is concentrated at the trust’s Princess Royal University Hospital site in Bromley. The trust has also organised a mass outsourcing of work with the aim of seeing patients within a safe time period.

A company called 18 Weeks Support has also been commissioned to run weekend lists at PRUH and the trust’s other site at Denmark Hill.

Since the start of the financial year, 127 of the trust’s endoscopy patients have been seen in hospitals run by private provider BMI.

The trust has committed to sending 1,560 more patients to BMI over the next six months.

The organisation, which is in financial special measures, has not disclosed an incident report that triggered the business case into the endoscopy delays and the close scrutiny the waiting list is now receiving.

The trust is also aiming to send work to Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT and Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup.

A spokesman for King’s College Hospital FT said: “The trust is currently contacting patients waiting for an endoscopy at the Princess Royal University to schedule their appointments at one of our hospitals or through an external provider. On this occasion we accept that we have not met the expectation of providing quality and safe care.”

Endoscopy capacity at the PRUH has been an issue for two years with a business case for more decontamination facilities going to the board in November 2017.

In February 2018, the trust admitted it had a problem with PRUH endoscopy performance as its beds were used as overflow for patients coming through the emergency department.

The trust transferred some of the endoscopy work to Croydon Health Services Trust.

The February board report also said: “A significant number of patients were having endoscopy appointments cancelled because of faulty machines.”